At Stereo D, a company that converts 2D theatrical content into stereoscopic 3D imagery, creating 3D editions of blockbuster movies takes hundreds of people working under the leadership of a dedicated stereo producer and stereographer team. For Solo: A Star Wars Story, the studio’s Tim Broderick and Yo Aoki talked to us about their collaboration and how they supported Ron Howard’s 3D vision for the film.
Can you talk about how your partnership works to produce a 3D version of every frame in a feature film?
Tim Broderick: Think of it this way — Yo is the artistic lead and I’m the one trying to give him as much of a runway as possible. My job entails a lot more of the phone calls to the client, setting up schedules and our pipelines and managing the material as it comes over to us. Yo’s focus is mainly in the theater and working with the stereo supervisors about his approach to each show. He homes in on what the style will be, analyzes each scene and builds a stereo plan for each.
Yo Aoki: Then we come together with the clients and all talk through the work… what they’re going for and how we can add to it using the 3D. We both have our strengths in the room with the clients and we play off each other very well and comfortably, which is why we’ve been doing this together for so long.
Did your collaboration begin at Stereo D?
Aoki: Yes. My first major project at Stereo D was James Cameron’s Titanic, but my history with Tim began with Godzilla and Jurassic Park 3D, where Tim was our production supervisor. Then we worked together with Tim serving as stereo producer on Jurassic World, followed by The BFG, Rogue One, The Mummy, Ready Player One and Solo.
So, you’re not the team that leads the 3D on the Star Wars episodes?
Broderick: Lucasfilm thought it made more sense to assign a dedicated team to the stories and another to the episodes as a practical matter since the schedules were overlapping.
How do you describe the aesthetic that applies to the 3D of Solo: A Star Wars Story compared to Rogue One?
Aoki: For Rogue One, Gareth Edwards and John Knoll preferred realism, while in Solo, Ron Howard and Rob Bredow preferred to make the 3D fun and comfortable. Different approaches and both worked for the experience each film offered.
Can you explain the difference between 3D realism and 3D fun and comfortable?
Broderick: Sure, for “realism” we take more of an analytical approach, making sure objects are correct in their spatial relationships. Is that rock the correct size in perspective to K2? No. It needs to be pushed positive so it’s larger. Whereas in “fun and comfortable,” we certainly keep things realistic, but the analytical approach is more Yo putting himself in the audience’s shoes and looking at each shot and asking 1) What can we do with this shot to make it just a little more of a fun ride for the audience? And 2) Is it comfortable? What do we need to sacrifice in terms of realism to help that?
What kind of guidance did director Ron Howard provide to inform your approach to the 3D?
Aoki: Take the Kessel Run sequence, which is a wild flight through fog and debris crashing into the ship as the team runs from TIE fighters and a giant monster. There was discussion early on about playing the sequence very shallow to avoid miniaturization of the Falcon and keep it to actual scale, but by doing that you lose the fun of the 3D tunnel effect of the environment they’re in, so Ron said to cheat the reality and make it more fun. There are also rocks and debris flying past the window, which Ron wanted to pull closer to the ship for more drama. The scale is unconventional, but it’s a lot more fun playing it this way. It adds to the impact of the scene.
You’ve worked with some pretty amazing directors — Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, James Cameron — what’s the best part of the job?
Aoki: It’s been great. After each show we walk away with more ideas to offer the next filmmaker to use in their 3D storytelling.
Broderick: Definitely one of the most fun parts of what we do is spending time with filmmakers learning what they’re going for, presenting how we can aid that story in terms of 3D and having the creative flexibility to see it through.