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3D and Supermodels Make the Perfect TV Couple

How we created original, live-action 3D for Sony's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Special

Looking deep into the sore throat of a sandy supermodel on a Hawaiian beach, it was impossible not to be introspective and take inventory of the events that led me to that point. I have an M.D. (neurology and psychiatry) and a Ph.D. (neurobiology & behavior), but about two years ago I partnered up with some folks to start a production company.

Mission #1: to work on cutting edge projects.

Mission #2: to make some money to fund Mission #1.

The fact that we were presented with something that could serve both purposes was precisely the cosmic intervention we needed to fuel us through the pitch meetings with Sports Illustrated and Sony.

If you have a few million dollars or compromising pics of James Cameron, you can make a 3D movie. But when “GO 3D” is the answer to the question of how SI can build even more currency and momentum into their already iconic and vibrant swimsuit issue, the road to 3D-glasses requires a more economical and efficient path.

The result of our pitch – the first 3D Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Special for Sony – will be available for download Feb. 15 on Playstation 3 consoles and Sony digital download platforms. You can catch a preview of some work we also did to produce the 2D version Friday on DirecTV’s 101 channel.

How many companies do original, live action, 3D content for the small screen? (Rhetorical -- although I’m sure this will elicit answers). I’d say none, when I’m full of bravado and chatting up my new swimsuit supermodels friends, and I’d say very few, when I’m more sober.

On the small screen, 3D has poked its head in on sports and on nature documentaries. In the former, the camera positions are generally fixed and in the latter there almost never any humans. But the SI Swimsuit/ Sony partnership sought to put an end to this – slightly experimental in notion, extremely experimental in 3D budget.

So we pitched them an idea: 3D, like fireworks, has novelty, in and of itself. Add to that the natural beauty of Hawaii and the genetic endowments of the most beautiful women on the planet and you might just have a July 4th display over the Hudson.

The most expensive part of this enterprise was the actual equipment and the technicians operating the cameras – that part we outsourced (only a couple of players in town) and it’s where we sacrificed most (internal voice saying “not most, all!”) of the budget. But what we learned from that, our virgin 3D shoot, was that 3D is a new space – that’s right, we learned the obvious, as is apt to happen in first-time experiences (although in our defense, it was hot and there were half-naked women everywhere).

But in more specific terms, filming a 3D world for a 3D screen added another layer of deception that simultaneously felt more real and more magical. And in finding an interesting way to lie, beyond a mere carpet bombing of the senses, our goal as storytellers was to understand our space.

We did it, primarily with a remarkable director, Jonathan Whittaker, who could see the 3D world, translate it into 2D and reconfigure it in his mind, as it would reappear on the screen – savant style; we had a client who had faith in us with a project that would’ve made any production sit up; and we had the guidance and training of the best Sony had to offer us, in the most collegial demeanor.

It was also opportunity for me to utilize my Ph.D. thesis work in neural circuitry – a little scientific insight into how different images might elicit different attention centers of the brain to react, thus deconstructing the path to what’s boring and what’s interesting – to tell [deceive] myself that I was actually the one who figured out that if we show beautiful women, in beautiful surroundings in 3D, a certain segment of the population will pay close attention – and it worked!

The piece got rave reviews at CES, was nominated for an award at the 3D Creative Arts Awards and featured at the International Society’s “Best of the Best.”

For those of you who like to skip to the end and get the twitter of version of this and just want to know how to shoot original, affordable, interesting, live-action 3D for the small (and big) screen, here it is:

-       have a good narrative (even fireworks need a beginning, middle and end)

-       find amicable 3D technicians (chippy, tech geeks can slow things down and friendly, enthusiastic ones speed things up)

-       utilize the 3D space to it’s full advantage, to tell your story (no 3D just for 3D’s sake)

-       save time for post-production.

If you want a twitter version of the above twitter version:

-       hire us!

Epilogue: the sandy supermodel drank plenty of fluids, took some antibiotics and returned to her playful, seductive ways.

BIO D. Bhatt

D. Bhatt is president & CEO of Man in Hat productions in NYC. He's a professional screenwriter, and a physician (M.D., neurology and psychiatry) and a scientist (Ph.D. in neurobiology & behavior). He is developing and producing new and innovative projects in film, television and advertising. He's also a musician, former spelling champion, and paralympic fencer.