FrameCycler Anchors VFX Pipeline for ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D’

VFX Supervisor Christopher Townsend Speaks about Stereo Postproduction
Munich, July 17, 2008 … FrameCycler, with IRIDAS’ DualStream stereoscopic technology, played a key role in the VFX pipeline for ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D.’ With the additional demands which stereo filmmaking places on visual effects work, effective review and image analysis tools are essential. Christopher Townsend, VFX supervisor on Journey 3D, and artists from several of the facilities involved, spoke recently about the project and FrameCycler’s role in the pipeline.

“Stereo VFX work requires careful examination of the image,” explained Chris Townsend. “If you have a comp with 50 elements in it, and just one of them is wrong, it can take a long time to find it. FrameCycler gave me the ability to find these things in my own time without having to render out shots over and over, or take up valuable theater time for every little detail.”

IRIDAS first introduced its DualStream technology in 2003 when dedicated stereoscopic versions of FrameCycler were used in venues, postproduction, and even scientific applications. In 2007, DualStream was introduced as an add-on option for all versions of FrameCycler, just in time for postproduction on Journey to the Center of the Earth. Artists working with the application found it easy to use. “It’s just so plug-and-play,” said Townsend. “It was great to be able to just load the left or right eye and have the other eye load automatically in FrameCycler.” Performance was solid, allowing for reliable and detailed analysis of each shot. “It’s a robust player and the image quality was excellent. I loved the ability to zoom in on any part of the image during playback.”

Most of the stereo features of recent years have been animated films; some have been live action movies. Bringing the two together introduces new challenges. “Doing CGI in stereo is easy, but when you add the plates, that’s when it gets tricky,” said Marc Rousseau, VFX supervisor at Mokko Studios, one of the facilities that worked on the project. “It is a complicated process making the plates match and that is part of the learning curve for our compositors. They can’t use the same “cheats” that they had with single stream content. It’s like they have to re-learn how to composite.”

“In 2D you can adjust the black levels and the size of an object and it looks like it’s further away,” explained Townsend. “In 3D you have to place each object correctly in Z-space. It’s incredible how sensitive your eye is to these things: just a few sub-pixels here or there and it looks off.”

FrameCycler Professional provided desktop playback so that individual artists could check their work on an ongoing basis. “Our compositors and trackers used FrameCycler with stereo goggles, said Francis Provencher, who was technology supervisor at Meteor Studios and is now with LumiereFX in Montreal. “Trackers ‘placed the cameras’ and tracked camera movement so that the CG content was properly positioned in the shots”

For formal review sessions most facilities will use FrameCycler DDS which provides direct-from-disk playback. “When we want to check longer sequences, or see shots in context, we went to our FrameCycler DDS viewing station,” explained Provencher.

The movie-going public can now see the results in theaters with the recent – and much anticipated – release of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. “We didn’t add stereo as a gimmick: we made a stereo feature film,” said Chris Townsend, “and, with respect to the use of GC and live action imagery, we have definitely pushed the envelope for stereo filmmaking. It was a huge challenge, but we can thank FrameCycler for helping make that possible.”

Read the full interview with VFX supervisor Christopher Townsend at

FrameCycler Professional provides real-time playback from RAM alongside an extensive set of image analysis tools. FrameCycler DDS adds direct-from-disk playback and EDL conform. All FrameCycler applications read and write any industry standard file format, including all available RAW formats. For more information on the FrameCycler applications, contact IRIDAS at +49…, IRIDAS USA at (818) 951-8927, or visit

IRIDAS pioneered desktop film-resolution playback in 2001. Its FrameCycler products are now the industry standard for frame-based image review. In 2003 IRIDAS introduced the first non-destructive color correction application. Today SpeedGrade and FrameCycler provide the critical links in an end-to-end pipeline for uncompressed content and color metadata. IRIDAS’ applications are used by filmmakers around the world and most major animation and postproduction houses. IRIDAS is an independent, privately held company headquartered in Munich, Germany. For more information, visit

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