The Real Wizard Behind the Curtain Part 2/2

3DGuy.tv brings you an EXCLUSIVE first hand interview of Al Caudullo with the real wizard behind the curtain of Oz the Great and Powerful, Ed W. Marsh.

 

This is a two part series interview. If you missed the first part, click here.:)  Better yet, subscribe to our daily newsletter (see homepage) to be one of the first to get notified whenever another exclusive is up! Never miss anything again!

 

Alright…happy reading everyone!

 

 ed-marsh-al-caudullo-oz the great and powerful

During the B&W scenes you very effectively used a good amount of negative parallax. The fire breathing man, the rope from the hot air balloon, the outstretched hand of the strongman. And of course the snowflakes coming outside the frame.

The black and white portion of the film is more modest in its stereo palette, but even here we had some fun:  First of all, we did not hold back on the title sequence.  Second, we highlighted instances of carnival magic by breaking the edges of the 1.33 matte as objects came forward of it organically (it will make sense when you see it I hope).   And when that happened, sound flourished into the fully immersive mix as well, even if only for a moment.  That mix was unique to the stereo version.  If you see the film in 2D it remains mono sound until he reaches the land of Oz.  Ultimately they did several different mixes for the proliferation of audio formats (Atmos, etc) so creating a unique stereo mix with a few flourishes was actually relatively easy for them to do.

 

I have to admit I was on the fence with the snowflakes.   Bob Murawski, our editor, deserves the credit for that shot.  I felt it was coming so close to our transition from black and white to color and from “Kansas” depth to “Oz” depth that it shouldn’t be pushed or draw too much attention to itself.  When it works I’m happy to be proved wrong.  🙂

 

 

In this rebirth of 3D, CGI and “Live 3D” shooting have become inseparable. What are your feelings about that?

I think stereo adds a level of complexity that can be daunting at first.  The flippant way I describe working in stereo is “having to do everything you normally do for a movie…perfectly…and twice.”   But it’s a LOT easier than when I first started working on stereo projects and had to build the tools myself.  Sometimes it was all we could do to play left eye and right in sync!  And while I think it’s possible to overuse CGI, it can be extremely helpful for a stereo project because it allows for easy changes.   Provided you get a nice well-rounded shot of your performers against a key screen you can audition many different kinds of depth when you integrate them into the environment.  Rather than having to live forever with a “baked-in” choice you can fix things, reduce eye strain or exaggerate stereo in fun ways.

 

In my CML (Geoff Boyle’s Cinematographers Mailing List) post I talk about how we reduced stereo to help a shot fuse better.   But a fun exaggeration of stereo happens when we go into the POV of the lookyloos–those strange glowing plants in the dark forest.   Very briefly, we enter their funhouse mirror world and pull and stretch our characters’ faces like so much 3D taffy.  It was an easy gag but no less fun for it.   And lastly, the tools are tools.  Give Picasso a hammer and a block of plaster and I’m sure you’ll get something worth looking at.  So use them.  If they help you do things you want to do or if they help fix your mistakes (or simply allow you to change your mind) then why not?

 

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The 3D doomsayers have dismissed and buried 3D so many times now. What is your response?

I have a love hate relationship with 3D.  I do wish brighter projection would come sooner rather than later.  I wish more theaters would use passive screens, purely because I find those glasses to be less intrusive to the experience.   No offense against XpanD but I already wear glasses and their glasses do not fit well on my face with my somewhat diminutive nose.  It can be a challenge to keep them in place.  I very much enjoyed the movie UP, but when I saw the opening sequence it was almost absurd.  Like many audience members I started to cry.  And first I had to carefully take off my 3D glasses, then take off my regular glasses and only then could I wipe my eyes and pull myself together.   Then I had to put all that hardware back on my face.  How is that a satisfying theatrical experience?  When we go to the movies we want that moment of transport or, in the best of all possible situations, that special feeling that Roger Ebert calls “uplift.”  That’s harder to do in 3D in part because of this hardware.   And we know from ten thousand plus years of staring at cave paintings or canvases in museums or photons bouncing off a screen that we do not need the third dimension to be so moved.

But all of that said…there is something visceral.   Something tangible.  When everything goes right I feel it adds to the sense of presence in a way that can be very involving and absolutely worthwhile.  It was heartening to hear so many people say that the best way to enjoy OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL was in 3D.  What that tells me is that we as filmmakers succeeded in creating a place people wanted to visit themselves.  The fact that was a place I loved imagining from my own childhood made it doubly special.

Will 3D survive?   I have some strong opinions about this as well.  No one was asked to pay more for their movie tickets when sound was introduced.  At least not at first.  And sound forever changed the way we tell stories on film.  Why should we have to pay more for 3D?  Also, few people living today have seen a movie trailer that included the phrase “WITH SOUND!”  3D still needs to announce itself.  I think it’s safe to say that we won’t know if 3D is here to stay until we stop seeing it singled out as special at the end of our movie trailers and advertising.

So my hope is that the technology continues to improve while artists continue to experiment with it so that audiences can continue to make the choice on their own.   And that period of change is just part of the continuum with all things.   Who knows?  We may be tapping directly into the visual cortex and piping stereo directly into the brain before we find a way to theatrically distribute stereo motion pictures without glasses.   Or maybe Google Glass will get people so used to wearing glasses that nobody will even think about it.  🙂

 

 the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz-ed-marsh-stereographer

You mentioned that your next project was a conversion. Is there any input on the original shots to make them more “3D friendly” for conversion? Do you find that you rely more heavily on the CGI with a conversion? Are you present on set or only involved after principal photography is done?

I will be making suggestions to the filmmakers on my current conversion project, but for the first time since my work with James Cameron I’m working with a director who has shot stereo so his instincts are already pretty developed.

 

 

Would you like to add anything in conclusion?

I also would be remiss if I don’t mention a few people.

James Goldman was the first unit stereographer for most of the production.

Eric Deren joined us in that role for a lengthy bit of additional photography.

Scott Willman was the Steregraphic VFX Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Without any one of these individuals, Oz would have been a much less enjoyable film for me.

Sometimes the best choice you can make as a supervisor is to let people who are good at their jobs simply do them.

🙂

 

 

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