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Panasonic Visuals

Kenji Irikura/Eiji Taki
GM of Studio Tech Group/
Osaka Production First Group

Stereoscopic 3D Production and Post at Japan’s Panasonic Visuals

Panasonic Visuals, Inc. was established in 1993 in Osaka and is a total video production company for the Panasonic group. Now they have two offices in Osaka and Tokyo. The Tokyo office also has a studio and offers technical support for shooting, editing, multi audio and BD authoring. In particular, they work together with other Panasonic group companies and have been offering clients high quality stereoscopic 3D video since 1996.

One of the main qualities that Panasonic Visuals prides itself on is the ability to offer consistent services from shooting and editing to authoring, using the latest technology and their acquired know how.  They are among to first to use new technologies and techniques as they pursue high quality video and were one of the first studios in Japan to start using 2K and even 4K material.

In the studio at Shinagawa, Tokyo, Kenji Irikura, a manager of the studio technical group, and Eiji Kita, from Osaka’s production first group, spoke with Blackmagic Design about how Blackmagic Design products are used in their workflow, particularly in stereoscopic 3D production.

Mr. Irikura: “We have made about 100 3D videos since 1996. In the beginning, we used a 2D linear editing system to edit light eye in SD, then used the data to make right eye. Of course we didn’t have any 3D monitors back then. We put two monitors next to each other and checked 3D with a mirror stereo viewer. We couldn’t work on details like we do now. Then we used to move to another room to check the video with projector. We just repeated this work to edit 3D video. We had more 3D work before the release of 3D VIERA in 2010 to play back at exhibitions. In the same year, we joined this project to play back 3D video of a concert at the venue just before encore. There were four 300” screens and we had to use two projectors for each L and R because one projector didn't have enough light volume. The audience loved it. We also worked on live 3D production for a fashion show. At this show we used soap bubbles and confetti for 3D video. It made the footage really interesting.”

Together with Digital Content Association and other two companies, Panasonic Visuals took part in the planning of ‘Collection of videos and explanations for 3D production support’ coordinated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2009. They took charge of the editing division.

”Anyone can build up a system but you can’t make good use of it without know how. You have to have experience of fails and alterations to make high quality 3D video. I want the industry to become more active with this kind of support. We deal with the entire process of video production from shooting and editing to MA. We added two twin lens 3D camcorders, and a Panasonic AG-3DA1, to improve shooting. We have 3D coordinators who supervise the whole process from planning to finishing. They are also the result of our vast experience of 3D production.”

Mr. Kita is one of those who built up his experience with Panasonic Visuals and worked actively as a 3D specialist. Currently he is working for the Osaka production group.

Mr. Kita: “As a director, I take part in all production stages from planning. When shooting, I consider accurate and safe 3D and instruct to adjust disparity so that we don’t have to fix the video later when editing. If the video is not shot for 3D, it’s impossible to fix and we can’t use it at all. When we really need a certain shot we shoot considering how to fix it and make a master. Because our staff has done 3D image creation from scratch and built their own know how, they have as much knowledge as 3D coordinators.”

Since renewing one of their NLE systems into 3D, Panasonic Visuals has successfully been working in 3D and now all their four rooms can handle 3D materials. As most 3D content includes surround sound, their MA studios are able to deal with 7.1/5.1 channels of audio. In addition all rooms are equipped with 3D VIERA and Blackmagic Design HDLink Pro 3D Displayport monitoring solutions.

Mr. Irikura: “We use HDLink for SDI - HDMI conversion for monitoring. Most of the materials we deal with have 5.1 channels of audio. We send audio using SDI cable for client to monitor originals and then output audio with 5.1ch. It’s too much trouble to have additional audio cable, so HDLink Pro is an ideal product for us. We also use HDLink Pro 3D to output side by side or flame packing 3D to monitor on 3D VIERA in each studio. Some converters from other manufacturers are very expensive and only output side by side, however Blackmagic Design’s products are not expensive and are high quality. We really love them.”

In December 2010, they purchased 40 HDLink Pro 3D models to use at many exhibitions where Panasonic displays their products.

Mr. Kita “At CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this year we had 75 multi displays from 9 sources, which was the largest multi display we ever had, and this included many new 3D products. We took all 40 HDLink Pro 3D models for the show in Las Vegas. HDLink is compact so it wasn’t difficult to carry them. Blackmagic Design listened to our requests for 60i flame packing and higher quality and now we can get higher quality images. It’s also affordable compared to other makers’ products. Other than exhibitions we also use HDLink Pro 3D for shooting and inhouse verification experiments. When we create moves for exhibitions, four editing rooms aren’t enough to make them on time so we have to outsource to other postproduction studios. We also brought in HDLink Pro3D for them to use in their workflow.”

Other than the HDLink Pros, Panasonic Visuals also uses Blackmagic Design Studio Videohub routers.

Mr. Irikura: “Now we use 3 Studio Videohubs in a non linear editing room to switch inputs and outputs for monitors and other systems. We often have to switch L and R images because the room is for stereo 3D editing. We decided to buy the Studio Videohub because it was the most affordable and easy to use solution. First we bought one Studio Videohub and added more because our staff loved it.”

In their Osaka office, many different Blackmagic Design DeckLink capture and playback cards are also used.

Mr. Kita: “We were using DeckLink HD Extreme to capture uncompressed materials or backup uncompressed materials captured by a uncompressed video recorder. We often go overseas for shooting where we take lots of shots every day, so it’s essential to have backup. We bring them back to Japan and edit them on our standalone system. Sometimes we bring the whole system to the exhibition venue and use it as an uncompressed source. We use DeckLink HD Extreme 3D to capture L and R simultaneously or use two DeckLink HD Extreme cards to capture L and R separately. In that case we edit L channel offline first then edit R channel, and put them together in an online editing system such as Quantel or Autodesk. We also took three standalone machines with Blackmagic Design Multibridges to CES. Our archives in Osaka office use the Blackmagic codec. We just can’t live without Blackmagic Design anymore.”

Panasonic Visuals always keeps their eyes on new formats, the latest technology for shooting and editing to provide their clients with the best workflow.

Mr. Irikura: “We also grade commercials and digitally remake old films. Until recently we used to appeal for 4K. We held seminars to appeal for 4K workflow from shooting with RED to CM mastering. At that time we were considering many systems to handle RED files more efficiently. However shooting with DSLR and file-based work is becoming more common. Up until now grading was especially emphasized in film laboratories but color management is now emphasized as a part of postproduction. We are interested in DaVinci Resolve, which can handle stereo 3D and is affordable.”