A good friend of mine asked me why I am involving Hollywood in my blog when I am an out-and-out technology geek with a lifetime background in graphics. To be frank I am not sure I answered him to his satisfaction but later it occurred to me to mention that the hottest new job in technology has emerged ‘down here’ and it’s in the movie business.

3D depth

The job is stereographer, cinemas newest profession. A role so new that my spell checker suggests 4 other word choices because the word itself doesn’t exist. But it does. So what is it, why is it such a hot new role? Because hot it is; a Google search "job vacancies stereographer" brings 224M Google hits.

First off there is still some debate about exactly what the role entails. But to put it simply it’s to do with the placement of objects in a scene in 3D. Because the reason that some people think they don’t like 3D, or say it makes them queasy is what’s called misplaced depth maps. In life we instinctively know without thinking about it how far away an object is. For example right now your screen is probably 50-60cm away from you. Now with 3D however the distance that the object appears to be away from you can sometimes be altered, either negatively (usually thru poor conversion) or for good effect, for example to alter your attention, or mood or to create drama.

If you review an online summary of the best and worse 3D films in almost all cases the conclusions are drawn based on whether the 3D effect got in the way of the film (a horrible distraction) or helped enhance the story. It should do so in a way that is seamless and supportive of the narrative. It?s the role of the stereographer to make sure it?s the latter.

As Chris Parks was quoted in movieScope magazine, Issue 23 (July/August 2011) "An audience should not say, ?Wow that was fantastic 3D?. Rather they should come out of a 3D film having laughed more, cried more, having empathized more with the characters, having understood the message – I guess being affected more subconsciously, whether it?s the emotions or the beauty or the claustrophobia. I?m always looking to use the 3D to do something more than just add depth in a project."

I personally believe that the rise of this new profession will bring about dramatically better 3D in the future and widen the appeal of the tool as a story telling medium.