Jill Smolin

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Ask Jill Smolin of 3ality Digital what she does, then buckle up. The answer has more dimensions than the stereoscopic 3D realities that 3ality helps create.

Officially called Director of Education, she’ll also answer to the less official “Chick Who Wants to Know Everything.” “I’m like a little brother who’s always saying, ‘I want to play! What’s that? Can I try?’” Jill laughs. Curiosity is a major part of her job description, as she learns the leading-edge of stereoscopic 3D (S3D) technology, then teaches and trains others to chart this colorful – and ultra-hot – frontier. “I need to be able to tell people about 3ality Digital’s technology, provide the basics behind shooting in S3D and then explain how to actually create stereoscopic images with our tools. Content creators come from all sorts of countries, cultures and backgrounds, and we train them all.”

We caught up with Jill after she’d just returned from a trade show in Japan. Snapshots of her time? Navigating a different language, dealing with equipment, running between booths, interacting with clients, and answering the question she loves regarding 3ality Digital’s system: “What exactly is it?” “Our system puts two cameras in an environment where they can produce identical images, offset as directed by filmmakers or broadcasters, so we can produce perfect S3D imagery. It’s a process involving highly precise mechanics and software, designed by 3ality Digital’s engineers and experienced cameramen.”

While creating 3D has been around for years, digital has changed everything, prompting the entire industry to keep learning and changing. “We’re in this beautiful age where we have the ability to capture stereo images with digital tools that allow us to align perfectly, and to project precisely. The integrated software and hardware works together in this sophisticated, complicated dance to produce perfect, beautiful stereoscopic imagery straight out of the camera rig. All of the image analysis and rig alignment is automated by our system so the creatives can just create.”

These advances in S3D also create interesting artistic opportunities, she says. “Artists are always trying to tell their story in different ways. Now we can insert three dimensions. And it’s not just exploding objects or things flying out at your head. It’s the small moments. It’s those moments between the lines. It’s My Dinner with Andre – tiny, quiet moments. What’s it like to be in the room for The Glass Menagerie? Or Citizen Kane – that dining room scene? First they’re at a table for two, by the end of the shot, there’s a table for 20. How would you do that with 3D? We have the opportunity to immerse ourselves now, in a way we haven’t before. That’s the creativity that 3D allows us.” And it’s paying off. 3ality Digital’s first movie, U2 3D, is considered state-of-the-art, and according to some, the best 3D movie ever made. It was the first movie shot totally in digital live-action 3D. And audiences worldwide will get a better idea of what lies ahead when 3ality Digital’s technology helps to breathe life into Peter Jackson’s upcoming film, The Hobbit.

Like many jobs in the industry, Jill’s typical day is anything but. The challenge? Knowing that she has no idea what’s in store. “Typical is absolutely not knowing. Typical is going to visit a set and thinking I’m just visiting and then I start answering questions about how far we can push the tools to bring a shot to life.”

Jill’s lively personality and infectious enthusiasm make her the ideal person to get people on track with S3D. “I’m trying to help people do what they need to do, what they want to do. It’s always uncomfortable to be in a position where you don’t know what you’re doing,” she says. Jill’s work involves helping others learn how to learn, ask questions, and do. “It’s not like I’m just taking books and teaching. I’m assembling tools and answering questions,” she says. “The teaching happens in the process of putting something together … ’I need more light.’ ‘Okay, why?’ So I teach somebody why. It’s super cool.”

And while Jill works in an industry that has her traveling globally, she prefers a smaller, local feel when it comes to food – and finances. She initially joined First Entertainment in the1 990s, when she bought her first car. “It was a 1 996 BMW – I still have that car. I still drive that car! I paid it off and went away. Then, I got tired of the big bank nonsense. I just wanted something simple. I thought, ‘First Entertainment is a good way to be part of something local.’ I’m a local foodie, so it seemed logical to go local for money too,” she laughs. “It’s nice to be part of something that feels small and local.”

“In Los Angeles, entertainment is our local industry. There’s not really anything else; it’s our local business. First Entertainment is this little piece of this very big industry. I like knowing it’s just a little piece. It’s just nice to be part of something small, that’s part of something bigger. It’s cool.”

Jill delights in small moments and simplicity, and one of things she likes most about First Entertainment definitely qualifies. “I know I can call and get a person,” she says. Thank you, Jill, for acknowledging the one dimension we like most about ourselves: simplicity with a human touch.

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Issue #29

First Quarter 2011

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