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STEP UP 3D

About The Production
Third Time's a Charm—in 3D—for Dance Franchise

Filmmakers realized they would need to up the ante on every level to top "Step Up 2 The Streets” and "Step Up.” "‘Step Up 2 The Streets' had this storybook element to it and I really envisioned the next chapter to be more of a twisted fairy tale,” says director Jon M. Chu. "‘Step Up 3D' features darker characters who come out of the shadows to play into this underground playground where anything goes.”

"Step Up 3D” will go down in history as the first film of its kind to be shot in digital 3D. "We were looking for exciting ways to take the franchise to the next level and 3D proved the perfect next way to literally step up,” says producer Patrick Wachsberger. "This franchise has always made audiences feel like they were seeing the best dance party ever, but now with 3D, it's as if they're in the best dance party ever.”

Chu discovered endless potential with the new medium. "In the old classic musicals, the frame itself twists and slides with the dancer and is a part of the dance. With 3D we are able to take the frame to a whole new level, where the audience doesn't just watch the dance, but they are part of the experience,” he says. "It feels like a duet between our audience and the dancers.”

"We choreographed moments in the dance numbers specifically for 3D,” adds Gibgot. "My favorite comment from a recent screening was one teenager saying ‘I felt like I was being attacked by dance, but in a good way.'”

"Shooting dance in 3D creates a ton of opportunities to experience dance in totally new ways,” adds Chu. "Dancers are leaping into your laps and spinning right towards your face.”

A standout at USC film school, Chu wowed the entertainment industry with his award-winning student films ("Silent Beats,” "When the Kids Are Away”) and upon graduating was subsequently courted by a who's who of Hollywood producers with promising projects. However, it was Offspring Entertainment's Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot and Summit Entertainment's Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig who presented Chu with an irresistible opportunity to helm the second installment to the surprise hit "Step Up.”

Chu, a former dancer, was thrilled to combine his two passions on the big screen for his directorial debut. The fairy tale theme of the series remained but Chu made "Step Up 2 The Streets” his own by injecting the energetic sequel with new characters and raw, inspired choreography that melded seamlessly with the lively storytelling that audiences responded to with "Step Up.” Chu's was an unrivaled approach that resonated with audiences with tremendous results. "Step Up 2 The Streets” opened number one at the box office, solidifying the series as a juggernaut of dance and music while simultaneously amassing a following of die-hard fans who still clamor for more of the street-savvy dance moves and compelling story.

And this time, they'll get it in 3D. Says Shankman, "Dance really lends itself to 3D technology. It's very exciting to marry the two and be the first to use this kind of technology to highlight this art form.”

Taking 3D to the streets of New York City proved both an opportunity and a challenge. "It is like using a different paintbrush, and your method has to change to use that paintbrush,” says Chu.

To ensure that the delicate camera equipment could withstand the vigorous pace of filming, the filmmakers turned to camera impresario Vince Pace, whose company oversaw the design of revolutionary technology used for recent big box-office hits to craft their 3D camera systems. The equipment, normally bulky and highly sensitive, would repeatedly be put to the test as Chu's elaborate dance concepts evolved. Pace modified the camera systems to a more streamlined version that allowed the fast-moving action to be shot more fluidly for stunning 3D vistas.

The filmmakers looked to director of photography Ken Seng, who previously worked on the thriller "Obsessed,” to integrate the film's look from both a 2D and 3D perspective. The locale turned out to be as inspirational for Seng as it was to Chu and his cast of dancers. "It's just amazing to work in these iconic places,” says Seng, "to be able to translate it all in 3D really lets you be there. My goal was to capture the feeling of when I moved here in my 20s. It was total wonderment as I walked around the city for the first time. Jon and I wanted the audience to feel that. We wanted to use 3D not as a novelty, but as a tool to submerge the viewer into New York City through crane shots and a dynamic camera work.”

Filmmakers utilized strategic choreography, lighting and production design to achieve added depth and multiple layers—maximizing the 3D imagery. Seng was looking forward to working with the emerging technology and decided early on to "go big” when it came to his ambitious lighting plans. This approach meshed perfectly with Chu's philosophy. "‘Step Up 3D' is essentially an action film,” says the cinematographer. "There's so much incredible dance happening and you want to be able to move the cameras around quickly and low to the ground to capture all that movement.”

One of the more immediate, if not awe-inspiring, benefits to filming in 3D is the ability to view scenes as they play out in real time, courtesy of a giant television monitor on set. It was a common sight on any given day to see cast and crew circled around the video monitor wearing hip, black plastic 3D glasses. The visible enthusiasm was a good sign, say filmmakers.

"Ultimately,” says Chu, "our movie creates a whole new experience in 3D, so it was worth all the hard work. And I think the audience will see that as well. They'll fall in love with the characters and they'll see some of the best dancers in the world.”

New Location Inspires New Story

For "Step Up 3D” the story moves from the familiar surroundings of Baltimore's elite Maryland School of the Arts (MSA) to the giddy wonderland of New York City, maintaining the proven formula of timely urban street choreography intertwined with a fresh, original story line.

Says producer Erik Feig, "The ‘Step Up' films have always been a great roller coaster ride for audiences around the world—going to locations with relatable characters and seeing amazing dance. With this film, we knew we wanted to take everything to the next level and New York is the perfect fit for the adventure.”

"The city has so much history, so much culture, and people come from all over the world to New York City to live out their dreams,” adds Chu. "We thought it was the perfect setting for our character Moose to meet some of the best dancers around the world and be forced to make decisions in his own life about what he really loves. We had a variety of worlds where we could visit—Chinatown, Red Hook, the Financial District, Times Square, Brooklyn. New York gave us a great palette to shoot in 3D and we really wanted to take our audience on a journey.”

With writers Amy Andelson and Emily Meyers ("Step Up 2 The Streets”), Chu went to work on developing the material that retained the heart of its predecessor, yet instilled a deeper element of fantasy, both whimsical and edgy, that would permeate every facet of the film.

To make the most of the musical numbers Chu envisioned for his off-kilter take on this dance drama, the writers made sure that dance would drive the narrative. "When Jon approached us with his vision for the third movie,” says Andelson, "he said it was really important to him to do something different, to maintain the romance that the franchise is famous for, but to

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