Home Theater Forum recently had the chance to talk to talk with Josh Hollander, Director of 3D Production at Pixar about Pixar's approach to 3D and the overall state of 3D. We also spoke with Bob Whitehill from Pixar and that interview can be found here. HTF: Hi Josh, how are you today? Josh Hollander: I'm doing well, how are you doing? HTF: Very good. I just want to say thanks on behalf of Home Theater Forum members, to Pixar for your support for quality 3D films and especially for releasing them on Blu-ray. Josh Hollander: Thank you for acknowledging that. It's our pleasure. HTF: There is not a lot of really high quality content coming out and the vast majority of good content is coming from you. Josh Hollander: Cool. Thanks for stating that. I appreciate it. HTF: No problem. It really shows. I was wondering if you could maybe just to start off, describe your role as Director of 3D Production in the film making process at Pixar. Josh Hollander: So my title is director of 3D stereo production. Obviously the term director can be used in a variety of ways. I am not a director in the conventional film sense. Bob, who you will be speaking to, is our stereoscopic supervisor. So he's our creative stereo lead. And I'm basically the “producer type” for 3D at the studio. I oversee production management, staffing, high level schedule and budget as well as production process and technology decisions. I'm not the technical lead for the project but I take part in some of the technical and some of the creative decisions in addition kind of overseeing the 3D processes as a whole at the studio. HTF: Is 3D a hard sell for you when you're working with the actual, film directors? Are they like, oh, great, here comes the 3D guy…. Josh Hollander: Some directors love 3D, some directors love it less. I wouldn’t say it's a hard sell. At this point it's a standard part of our moviemaking process and everybody is really on board with making not only the best movies we can but the best 3D movies we can. I can't claim that we as a studio are 100 percent all over 3D nonstop all the time. But there is certainly a good collaboration and engagement with the filmmakers when it comes to 3D. And Bob, who is our studio supervisor, has really earned the trust of our filmmakers and has built great relationships with all of them. They really trust him to make a great 3D version of the films and we work collaboratively with them on it. HTF: Could you elaborate a little bit on the actual film director and how they work with you both on a title you are converting to 3D like Monsters, Inc. or a new 3D theatrical feature? Josh Hollander: For the re-releases we know what the movie is supposed to look like and a big part of our job is to just recreate the thing matching the original. And it will probably be helpful for me in just a moment to just kind of walk you through our process for the catalogue re-releases because there are some interesting aspects and it's a unique process. So some bits of the pipeline overlap but we don't require all that much of the director's time from the original film. So the most recent re-release is actually Cars and it's going straight to 3D Blu-ray not getting a theatrical release. And obviously the director of Cars was John, so we don't need to work interactively with John or on in the case of Monsters it was Pete Doctor. We didn't really need to work very interactively with them on the catalogue re-release. But what we spend the vast majority of our time doing is just getting the thing to render and look like it used to look. And then once we get into the creative stuff, Bob, like I said, has really earned the trust of the director. So he will take it pretty far on his own. And then we review with the directors on a real basis or something like that to just get their input on how 3D is working with the story and if there are any key moments they'd like to be bigger or if there's any subtleties that we're missing that they might like us to take advantage of. With the active projects, the modern features like Monsters University. We also take it pretty far on our own. We don't have a process whereby, 3D is considered at every single step of the way and 3D is represented in every review of the other departments. I know some studios have it really, really integrated. And our filmmakers are thinking about 3D and they know we're out here. We consult with them on some regular basis, provide our thoughts about a given shot, scene, mood, what have you. But then our layout artists and our editorial folks, they have an understanding of how 3D works and what works and what doesn’t. And it turns out that a well composed film turns into a pretty nice well composed 3D film. And especially because we're not really seeking to do anything in your face, nothing -- none of the gimmicky stuff that what would really require camera planning for 3D. But beautiful helicopter shots or fly throughs or movements in Z space, the things that work well in 2D they tend to work pretty well in 3D. So we don't feel like we really need to derive or feed back upon that process in order to turn out a really good 3D product. HTF: You actually mentioned the fact that your strengths, when it comes to 3D, these are things that are our members have seen and commented on. Just the overall depth of field, the way the film is opened up. But there is occasionally some criticism that there isn’t any of those well, say, maybe 3D payoffs where you get the gimmicky shot or you guys tend to avoid those. Josh Hollander: Yes. HTF: Is there any particular reason why you don't occasionally just throw one or two in there over the course of a film or -- Josh Hollander: It's a good question. I guess our feeling is we have a few of them in there in each project. I can think of in Brave there were definitely some arrows being shot towards the camera. But I think part of it is and, our goal is -- it's all about the story. We often say that story is king at Pixar. And we don't want to do anything that would take a person out of the moment. And we don't want them to think, oh, that was a cool 3D moment necessarily. Yes, of course, we want our audiences to enjoy our 3D films and say that was a great 3D film but more than that we're hoping that whether they see it in 2D or 3D they are just saying that was a great moment, that was a great film. And we find that sometimes those moments, they make you think about the fact that you're watching a movie. That thing points out and it's gimmicky -- I don't want to use the word gimmicky because that has a negative connotation. It's like there's payoff moments, I guess you would call it. We don't want to take anyone out of the story or the emotion of any moment. So we try to remain graceful, we try and work within the story bringing people further into it and not -- and really shying away from anything that might push them away or back in their seat. HTF: Got it. Oh, that's interesting, very interesting answer. Josh Hollander: Yeah, and we -- I have heard, you know, we read some of the reviews and what not that say like we're leaving something on the table. We don't want to do that. We want people who pay for the extra premium for our 3D to really get as much out of it as they want. But I also think that folks know our aesthetic and are getting to know our approach to it and then I hope that folks are still getting -- feeling like they are getting their money's worth on the strength of the film and on the strength of how 3D works and moves and supports even without a lot of those poke-you-in-the-face moments. HTF: That sounds like it's a learning experience all the way around. Josh Hollander: Totally. I said that to somebody recently is that as a medium, as an artistic format 3D in its current reincarnation, in this modern renaissance of 3D we're all still learning. I think all those studios are still learning and I think the audiences are learning what they like and what they don't and how it works and who does what and you know, you go to a Tarantino film pretty much knowing what to expect. Obviously a great, great filmmaker and we “learned him” and he has “learned us” and then I guess in similar ways people learn what a Pixar film is and what Pixar 3D is. HTF: Well, I do say -- want to say to you, you did a great job with Cars. It was one of those things that I sat down expecting to kind of skip through it a little bit and I ended up watching the whole thing. Josh Hollander: Oh, great. I'm glad you said that. It's interesting, some of these films like Nemo for instance, you go into that just knowing it is going to wow you like Nemo just blew me away when I saw in 3D. You know, the immersive -- immersive was always the word we used in reference to Nemo, now we can use it in a whole new way. And then there are some films that just kind of take you by surprise. I didn't go into Cars thinking I was going to be wowed. It's a good movie and I knew we could do something with it. But it was a very pleasant surprise just how well it worked and how much we were able to do to take advantage of the medium and bring something new to it. Because that's the hope with the re-release, it's not just can we enhance the experience. How do we bring something new to the film and the audience experience of watching? And I was pleased. I'm glad you noticed. HTF: Yeah. I mean, even the menu design, I mean, that first pull back to see Radiator Springs, I felt like I was literally standing at the front of Cars Land at Disneyland. I mean, it was just -- it was just amazing. Josh Hollander: Yeah, totally, totally. And even like I loved one of the first sequences we worked on in 3D was the opening race and it's like those really low cameras that are down on the track with the rumble of the Cars and the little bits of rubber and cement rolling along. It's like you really feel like that you're on that track. HTF: Yes, you do. Josh Hollander: I like those. HTF: Yes, you do. And just to put you on the spot, overall, it sounds like you're a fan of 3D. I'll ask you, first of all, what does 3D add to the cinema experience in your opinion and then what is your favorite 3D movie? Josh Hollander: Well, first, I'll say I am not one of the scream-it-from-the-rooftops 3D people. There are definitely people in the industry who are like, all things 3D and that's great and I support them and I'm friends with them. I have never been one to just say everything should be in 3D and everyone should see everything in 3D. I definitely see it as an aesthetic and a creative choice and some people love it and some people love it less and that's all good. And we want to make sure we're doing the right thing for the people that love it. I also think, okay, this is a bit tangential but I'll just say it then I'll promise I'll get back to answering your question. I think it took some learning on the part of the industry to figure what worked and what didn't. And I fear that we may have lost some audiences, I mean, we the industry, not necessarily we Pixar. We the industry may have lost some audiences with 3D that didn't totally work, or you're we're working out the kinks, we were learning it. And I'm hopeful and optimistic that we can kind of win some of those audiences back once they see where the industry is settling with regard to 3D and how well it can be done and how more and more I think a lot of the other studios and we are finding very graceful ways to use it. So it was just my little spiel, my little soapbox. To get back to answering your question, I feel like it just -- it can enhance connection to the emotions of a moment. I think using Up as an example. It was our first film in 3D and we were definitely a little bit timid at the time. We didn't want to overdo it and yet, you know, Carl as a character, he is boxed in emotionally in many ways at certain times of his life. And he as a character is designed pretty square and his home it feels very confined and his world view is somewhat limited and confined. 3D can really enhance that sense of confinement. And yet when his mind starts to open, when his world view expands, when his relationship with Russell grows and when his emotions just open up, 3D can support that opening and bring it to the audience is a way that may not even perceive. But I truly believe it does enhance the emotional connection. And I would say Up is one of my favorite 3D movies. I just -- I think it -- I love, love, love the movie. I love the design and I love how 3D worked with it. There is one scene in particular that we often reference where it's kind of near the end of the film they finally get to the falls and Russell goes and takes off to chase Kevin to try to save the bird. And Carl just sits down, he's in the chair. He's at the falls. He's finally where he wants to be and he's looking through Elly's adventure book. And here he was he's feeling down, he's feeling sad, he's looking at the book, his lost love like he is feeling like he let her down like she never had the adventure she wanted. And as the scene starts there is very little color. It's somewhat monochromatic. The camera angle is very low and over the course of the scene which is a few minutes the camera cuts down at the book, then up at Carl. Then down at the book, then up at Carl. And as he reads he's realized he is going through an emotional awakening where he's realizing that their life together was the adventure and that he should go on living and he does have this new love in his friend, in Russell and in Kevin, and by the end of the shot there's a lot more color. The effects guys have added tears and the music is back in and over the course of the shot with every cut down to the book and back at Carl, we actually brought the 3D a tiny bit deeper and that a tiny bit deeper and a tiny bit deeper. So over the course of that shot although every cut is basically imperceptible to the human eye, you're brought physically literally deeper into his world and you kind of go along with him on his emotional awakening. And that's the kind of thing that we really seek to do to -- and that I think 3D can really do when thought about in that way is enhance our audience's connection to the emotional journey of the characters. HTF: Well, you're absolutely right. And I just to loop back to your soapbox, I think in fact you were being overly generous in your comments frankly. Josh Hollander: [Laughs] I may have been but I’m nothing, if not politic HTF: Yes, I think there was a box office money grab there where everyone thought 3D was golden and that consumers would fork over the extra money for anything that said 3D and consumers quickly learned that not all 3D was good 3D and I think there was definitely a bit of a backlash at the box office there. Josh Hollander: Yeah. HTF: And I hope that, like you said, we can bring people back to the theater. People know I think with Pixar that they are getting a consistent quality 3D product and hopefully other studios will take that same tact as well. Josh Hollander: Yeah, I appreciate that. Yeah, and it's a shame and it's kind of my first experience of watching the industry shoot itself in the foot. It's like if we had just taken a little bit like more relaxed approach like everybody “chill-ax”, everybody let's learn this thing. Let's figure it out, let's see what works, let's see what doesn’t. I feel like it would be -- maybe they wouldn’t have made as much money as those first few years where clearly some money was made but maybe in the long run we would have built a more stable model for 3D. And you can watch it with home market where all of the manufacturers got really excited about 3D home displays and there's a lot of complexities to that but they -- everybody wanted to be shipping displays, shipping, you know, it's their business. They need to make money. But there are so many complexities with active glasses, passive glasses, glasses free, what's the reality? Have do you sell these things on a show floor with different -- or on a sales floor with difficult technologies to explain and discuss and glasses that are out of batteries. It's not an easy thing. And I lament the fact that we maybe missed an opportunity to really enhance the whole marketplace on a pretty broad base. And the industry seems to now be moving on to 4K. Everyone's got to buy a 4K TV. And don't get me wrong, I think 4K is great. I think there is a lot to be said for it. I also think that it would be a shame if we don't get a little bit more opportunity to roll out 3D in the home the way it should be done and with as good as it could be. HTF: Well, I think your home releases and the fact that you're revisiting movies like Cars and bringing them to the home and 3D definitely helps. Quality content is very positive for that still. Josh Hollander: Yes, yes, I hope so. HTF: No problem. I really appreciate your time, Josh. Josh Hollander: Yeah, my pleasure, thanks for your time and your enthusiasm. We really appreciate it.