Self-starter is a good way to describe Jesse Blanchard.

He’s a self-taught filmmaker working in stereoscopic 3D.

“I started making movies about 10 years ago,” Blanchard says. “Just picking up a camera and a Final Cut Pro manual. Since then, I've made 50 shorts films, which have played at Cannes and been picked up by George Romero and Dimensions Films.”

Oscar-winning animators have also sung his praises and his first “3D short took home the Best of the Festival Award from the 2011 Los Angeles 3D Film Festival,” according to Blanchard’s bio.

This success can be attributed to Blanchard’s attention to detail and the fact that he also designed, built and patented his own 3D camera system using tools from the Southeast Portland Tool Library—and is now selling the Robert Rig internationally.

Working under his production company, Goat & Yeti, Blanchard has employed public, community resources to bring his business and creations to life as he continues to develop innovative ideas, only hindered by the finite number of hours in a day.

NN: 3D filmmaking seems like such an amazingly complicated but fascinating process. Can you briefly describe what it takes to actually film in 3D?

JB: 3D is really easy to do, and pretty hard to do well. All you have to do is record independent images (left and right) and then deliver each stream independently to each eye. The brain is what does all the 3D magic. What's difficult about 3D is feeding the brain information in a way that's easy for it to put together. If you don't, you give the viewer headaches.

NN: It sounds to me like one of the things that has been integral to your success in the 3D world is of your own creation—you design and build your own 3D camera rigs. What led you to create your own rig?

JB: Necessity. I couldn't afford the pro [camera] rigs, which are very expensive. Since then, I've learned enough about 3D to actually build the rigs that I want. Metal work has been a great skill to pick up.

NN: Tell me about the role the Southeast Portland Tool Library (SEPTL) has played in this process.

JB: The SEPTL was really instrumental—pun intended! Most of the time, I wasn't exactly sure what tool would work, and sometimes, I knew what I needed but didn't have it. Often, you only need to put one hole in something, but it has to be at a perfect 90 degrees. So, having a drill press from the tool library was crucial.

The Robert Rig. Photo: Jesse Blanchard
The Robert Rig. Photo: Jesse Blanchard
NN: Why is your camera rig design called the Robert Rig?

JB: I wanted the name to have good karma. A filmmaker that has always inspired me is Robert Rodriguez, so it's named in honor of him.

NN: Did you have prior knowledge or experience that helped you design, develop and build the Robert Rig?

JB: Yes and no. I've alway built stuff, but only in wood. This was my first time working with aluminum. I think what helped me the most was my DIY film background. In film, all that matters is the results, and I was able to take that ethos and crash my way forward till I figured out what works. It's embracing that you don't know anything and taking a step forward and looking around, trying to learn enough to take another step forward. It's a clumsy and inefficient way of working but very effective in the long run.

NN: After refining and perfecting the Robert Rig, you’re now selling it as “the most affordable, durable, and easy to use 3D beamsplitter on the market.” What kind of demand is there for 3D camera rigs?

JB: It's going pretty well. It's a small niche that I'm serving, but I'm the only one who has the right product for people in that niche. To that end, I've sold rigs to Pakistan, Australia, Austria, Ukraine and Canada. Users really like the rig so far, so I'm hoping its reputation spreads and I get more customers.

NN: How have you gone about marketing and selling the Robert Rig?

JB: I'm just starting to market it. My main plan is to put out tutorial videos to show people how great 3D is achievable. I'm also going to do a contest where I teach people how to shoot 3D with a 2D camera and then give the best picture a free rig. I also want to try and get it into some photography magazines for Christmas. I think it's great gift for a photo nerd who has everything.

NN: 3D is definitely an emerging, cutting-edge and fast-changing industry. How do you keep abreast with the evolving field?

JB: I'm very active in the online 3D community. I also go to festivals. Also, because I shoot 3D myself, I'm always hungry for new developments. I have no allegiance to technology or brands. Whatever works best wins.

NN: Any interesting projects that you’re currently working on?

JB: I'm doing lots of fun stuff. I just did a 3D photo booth for Cargo Collective at its new space party in Los Angeles. I'm working on a 3D bike-in theater here in town that will show my work. I've got my own 3D puppet monster movie I'm doing. Honestly, the biggest problem is time. I just don't have enough for all the ideas.

NN: Right, you’re currently working on a personal film project, Chompers 3D. I watched the captivatingly disturbing teaser and am curious to know a bit more about the story as well as the current status of the project.

JB: Chompers is gonna be so much fun! It's a 3D monster movie done with puppets. (How Portland is that, right?) But it will be done with real attention to detail, and the puppets will not be a joke. Please, watch the teaser to see what I mean. 

Chompers 3D - from Jesse Blanchard on Vimeo.

The script is written and the business plan is just getting finished. Right now, I just need to connect with the right person to get it made.

NN: Have you also used tools from SEPTL to create elements for you movies?

Oh yes. Since I work in miniature, everything that the cameras see is fabricated. For my last short, I used the drill press, pipe bender, chop saw, soldering iron, grinding wheel, clamps, scrim saw, and a bunch of other stuff I'm spacing on.

NN: So, are all 3D glasses the same? What kind do people need to have to view your films properly?

No, 3D glasses are not all the same. For my stuff, people can request free 3D glasses, or they can come to one of my events and see my films in full color 3D (using RealD glasses).

Keep up with Jesse Blanchard’s products and projects at Goat & Yeti and Chompers 3D—and get in touch if you’re the right person to help him complete his current cinematic undertaking. Plus, you can pick up your own pair of 3D glasses at the Southeast Portland Tool Library for a $1 (or better) donation.