Thursday, 10 May 2012

Seeing things in 3D – A new Gener8-tion of technology

The future is bright for Vancouver-based Gener8, as they approach their first full year of business with an impressive “A-list” of clients who all have one thing in common – the fast growing business of 3D.
Incorporated in February 2011, Gener8 is a stereoscopic 3D conversion company - one of the few studios in the world capable of delivering stereo conversion for an entire feature-length film.
When it first opened its doors, Gener8 had a single vision: to make it easy for its clients to convert 2D films to high-quality 3D, and to create a “new category” in the 3D world around the art of creating virtual 3D.
To that end, Gener8’s G83D division uses its own stereoscopic 3D conversion system, which the company says can meet or beat natively-shot 3D.
Gener8 was formed by entertainment media veterans who wanted to revolutionize the process of digital content control and creation.
"We are a company built around techies,” says Gener8 president and CEO Rory Armes, adding that the founders all come from technology/math/game creation backgrounds.
Before joining Gener8 as CEO, Armes served as GM at Electronic Arts Canada where he oversaw all three EA Canadian studios (EA Canada, EA Black Box, and EA Montreal) and 1,500 video game developers, programmers and artists.
Tim Bennison, the company’s COO, co-created several award-winning video games including Prototype, The Hulk and Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.
Gener8’s chief creative officer is Nilo Rodis. Originally trained as an industrial designer, Rodis began his career designing cars for General Motors,  then went on to Industrial Light and Magic to work on the films The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Later, he joined Pixar Animation Studios and worked as an artist on a variety of high profile properties including Toy Story.
Mark Lasoff, Gener8’s visual effects supervisor, has won an Academy Award for visual effects for Titanic. His work has appeared in numerous visual effects-driven blockbusters including Avatar, Titanic, Apollo 13, and The Matrix 2 and 3. Lasoff has supervised several large-format stereoscopic films for theme parks around the world, including the award-winning Terminator 2/3D.
The combined experience of the company’s management team, along with its other talented staff, has enabled Gener8 to become a company with a strong understanding of what the 3D market really needs in terms of conversion software.
"Most of the employees designing the actual software have been doing this since the 1990s," says Armes.
Gener8’s G83D division uses a process based on 3D reconstruction and projection.
The technology allows G83D to reconstruct a virtual 3D set of the environment, actors and effects. Next, G83D animates stereo cameras and projects the original shot onto a virtual set.
This takes the guesswork out of spatial relationships and means that complex visual effects and hair shots have natural volume and depth, with no artifacts.
"No other technique can deliver guaranteed quality across a wide variety of shots, which is why we've built our entire G83D conversion process and toolset on this system,” says Bennison.
Gener8 says its process seamlessly integrates with shots filmed using native stereo 3D camera rigs, providing filmmakers with far more flexibility in cases when shooting in native 3D isn't possible or shots need to be fixed.
"Since we create in true 3D, converted and native shots flow naturally,” adds Bennison.
The company notes its G83D stereo pipeline is supported by efficient production management, allowing for the conversion of hundreds of shots or an entire film without any compromises on delivery time or quality.
Gener8 states that it typically achieves 95 percent first-time shot approval rates, and its client base includes Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.
The 3D market has attracted some big name directors in North America, including the likes of Martin Scorsese and James Cameron.
Gener8 has worked on a number of big-name films, including the last Harry Potter movie, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Wrath of the Titans in 3D.
The company is currently working on three of the “tent pole” blockbusters slated to hit theatres this fall.
As it continues to attract big-name clients, Gener8 says it is in a great position to deliver higher quality and better service from its Canadian based operations.
Many provinces, including British Columbia where the company is based, offer a refundable tax credit based on eligible provincial labour expenditures incurred by a qualifying corporation during a taxation year with respect to eligible computer animation and special effects activities.
This means Gener8 can compete not only against other competitors in North America, but also in other countries.
Indeed, Gener8 says it is looking at taking its G83D process abroad and tapping into the Asian and Indian markets that are eager to convert their own content.
China and India, large amounts are being invested in building massive 3D-enabled complexes to meet demand as the middle class population grows.
"3D is very strong at box office outside of North America,” says the company's CEO. “Revenues are better with 3D.”
Initial costs for a cinema to install a 3D projection system are in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, so the millions of dollars of revenue generated in the theatre are worth the cost.
In any case, the company predicts that in the next two to three years, every theatre will have to migrate to a digital format (which is required for 3D) as analogue film is going to be phased out.
"3D is also making a real push into the home," says Armes. “There are currently about 17 to 20 million 3D-enabled T.V.s in people’s homes, but that number is expected to skyrocket to 170 million over the next three years as companies produce all their HD televisions with 3D capabilities.”

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