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Inside View: Randall P. Dark

President and CEO • Randall Dark Productions, Austin • http://randalldarknews.blogspot.com/

Randall P. Dark Photo by: Lindy Michelle.

by Christine Bunish

Markee: You just finished your first stereo 3D project, 3 Cities in 3D, the first shot with Panasonic's AG-3DA1 fully-integrated HD 3D camcorder. What was that experience like?

Mr. Dark: “I had mixed feelings about 3D and felt it was improper to talk about [them] before I'd shot and edited 3D. I was interested in trying the 3DA1 because of its side-by-side lenses. I thought it could be a new, cost-effective way of creating 3D.

“I had worked with Shane Marr on a Dolly Parton PSA and asked him if there was any interest in a tourist-center 3D video in the Smokey Mountains. There was, so I phoned my friends at Wealth TV and asked if they'd be interested in airing a few 3D documentaries if I did them — they were. I met with Panasonic at NAB and told them I'd like to get my hands on one of the first 3DA1s to do a real-world, client-driven project. Panasonic got me a camera last June, and we began 3 Cities in 3D, a co-production between Randall Dark Productions and Shane's company, Cinemarr Entertainment in Sevierville, Tennessee.”

Markee: How did you pack three cities — Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge — into the 24-minute documentary?

Mr. Dark: “We talked to each city's Chamber of Commerce and asked them to pick seven locations to showcase; Shane and I looked for areas for B roll, too. The doc shows in broad strokes the unique attributes and attractions these cities offer to people who have a week or three days to spend in the area.

“We shot 82 locations in 10 days — we were runnin' and gunnin'. The camera allowed us to shoot many locations quickly because we didn't need a big crew: Its form factor is very easy to move, and you can use Steadicam, jibs and dollies but don't need big set ups. At the end of the day, if I saw a beautiful sunset I could capture it alone, with just a tripod. That's unheard of when shooting 3D.”

Markee: Did you encounter any challenges?

Mr. Dark: “We were shooting at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg during normal business hours so I couldn't get in the way of paying customers with lots of lights and equipment. Because the camera is so portable, I was able to get what I needed without displacing anybody. I shot people going up and down a zip line in the Smokeys then got myself rigged up with the camera, too. With the 3DA1 I didn't have to think in terms of traditional shots.

“We used high-capacity, 8-gig media cards that had 45-minute loads, very much like the HDCAM loads I'm used to. We treated the cards as master tapes, keeping the files of raw footage safe until we could transfer them in post with card readers and create files to edit with. Cinemarr and I co-own all the raw footage so we'll be able to market 3D stock footage later with FootageBank as our rep.”

Markee: What surprised you the most during the project?

Mr. Dark: “The quality of the images and the ability to do positive and negative 3D and see it in realtime in a very portable environment. We were so mobile, yet we could do convergence in the field in realtime with this technology.

“We were also able to go into environments without a gigantic crew and lots of equipment. You can work very intimately and subtly in public places with a camera that small.”

Markee: What's next for 3 Cities in 3D and for you?

Mr. Dark: “Cinemarr and I co-own a 3D post facility in Sevierville, Dark Marr Productions, where Shane is working on the edit using CineForm Neo3D and an Adobe CS5 editing system. We communicate about the cut interactively with Video Skype when I'm traveling.

“The Sevierville Chamber of Commerce loved 3 Cities so much they wanted their own half hour; so we shot one with all new footage, and that's currently in post, too. We're marketing the concept to other cities across the U.S. — everyone's looking for innovative ways to attract visitors.

“I'd like to do more experimenting with 3D — it's really in its infancy. I always say ‘just because you can do something doesn't mean you should,' and I think that applies to 3D. I want to test its limits and scope for storytelling and get a better understanding of when and how to use it.”