Scorsese on shooting HUGO in 3D

This holiday season Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese takes viewers on an adventure with his first-ever 3D film, based on Brian Selznick’s best-selling book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” HUGO tells the story of an orphan boy on a quest to unlock a secret left to him by his father. The journey takes him from his home in a bustling train station into the imaginative world of a forgotten filmmaker.

The production relied on ARRI ALEXA cameras and Fusion Systems from Cameron Pace Group to capture 1930s Paris and the fantastical imagery of director George Melíes. At a recent screening of HUGO in Los Angeles, Scorsese spoke about the experience of shooting his first movie in digital and as well as 3D stereoscopic.

Scorsese and Cameron on Shooting HUGO in 3D

Director Martin Scorsese discusses his vision with James Cameron for his latest film HUGO. The production shot in 3D stereoscopic with ALEXA cameras, which utilized Fusion Pace 3D rigs developed by Cameron Pace Group. Footage courtesy  of Paramount Pictures.

“The use of 3D is exciting, but at the same time it commands respect,” he noted. “We kept pushing it to see how far we could go with the technology.”

The director explained the process was a whole new experience for himself along with his team of longtime collaborators, which included production designer Dante Ferretti, cinematographer Robert Richardson, ASC and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. “It was a lot of fun and it was a headache, but it was a really enjoyable headache,” laughed Scorsese. “It was a discovery with each shot, each set. Designing the picture was an adventure in every facet. It was really rethinking about how to make pictures…Most of the time it was a great deal of fun.”

For Richardson, a two-time Oscar winner, the experience allowed the filmmakers to think differently about the elements of photography. ”Marty would look at [the monitor] and see if it was the right depth or not, we’d play with things in the background and foreground. We also learned a lot with color, light and dark.”

Said Scorsese, “For me, it’s just another element to tell a story…It was extraordinary. We’d look at a shot and say, ‘What can we do here?’ We could also use the depth as a narrative – that was the idea.”

The auteur does not regard this step into 3D as a fad, but as an evolution in storytelling. For him, the technique has finally arrived. “The first time images started to move, immediately people wanted color, sound, big screen, and depth – that is just what we are doing now.”

He explained how initially when color films were introduced they were used strictly in musicals, comedies and westerns; serious films were shot in black and white. “There were so many attempts at color from 1895 on – all hand tinted and none of it really caught the audience. They were very orange or blue, skin tones were wrong until finally they hit it right.“

He offered this insight to naysayers of the medium: “As I see you sitting here now, I see you in 3D,” he told the audience. “Most people have stereo vision. Why belittle that very important element of our existence? The cameras are getting smaller, more flexible, the issue of glasses, or having no glasses -- that’s being worked on. If everything moves along and there are no major catastrophes, why not use it?…You have to think that way. Don’t let economics or fashion inhibit you from being creative.”

HUGO is now in theaters.