By Lin Sebastian Kayser, Chief Executive Officer of IRIDAS
As it appeared in POST Magazine
2D to 3D has received a lot of bad press lately. But with the industry plowing forward with a slew of new 3D productions, I think it's time we look at the bigger picture, and how 2D to 3D conversion technology will play a bigger role than many may think.
I am not talking about mostly studio-driven quick conversion of an existing 2D movie to 3D. Nor am I making the case for shooting your 3D movies in 2D to save production costs. I am also not talking about a "Titanic" or "Star Wars" 3D re-release. There are maybe a handful of older movies that really make sense in 3D. But I wouldn't watch "Casablanca" in 3D just as I wouldn't watch it in color. 3D is a new, extended medium, and I believe we should not mess with existing movies, unless the director is present in the 3D editing room.
But 2D to 3D conversion will increasingly be an indispensable tool in the stereoscopic toolset. First, there is a lot of 2D stock material out there and, let's face it, stock footage is a tremendous asset. Stereoscopic documentary movies, think "Planet Earth," are amazing. If you've watched one, you know it's one of the areas where 3D will have a significant impact. There will be a significant demand for stock Stereo 3D footage to intercut in newly shot documentaries, so 3D documentary footage will become a valuable asset. Enter 2D to 3D conversion: There is no way institutions like the BBC will dump their existing stock footage libraries and reshoot everything in 3D. 2D to 3D conversion of existing stock footage will become a driving factor of the conversion business.
Then there's the case when it's impractical or impossible to shoot in 3D. This may be because of rig size or optical limitations. Take long lenses for example: When you shoot tele, the depth of the subject is optically flattened, an effect which can have a nice dramatic impact in a 2D movie. Unfortunately, in 3D this leads to the dreaded "postcard" effect: the subjects look stacked up flat in Z space. This is precisely where 2D to 3D conversion technologies will help us; giving us back the depth that we expect to see.
Which brings us to the last and most important area: We will increasingly employ image processing technologies that were developed for 2D to 3D conversion, even though we already shot with two cameras. We may shoot with two long lenses and then use the additional depth information of the second camera as input for the conversion process to beef up the spatiality. We will routinely rewarp the depth in S3D movies to make them more pleasing to watch and 2D to 3D conversion algorithms will play a major role in this process.
And while we are at it, why stop with reality? Why not use unrealistic 3D for dramatic effect? Already people are experimenting with artificial depth, a warped Z space that would be impossible to recreate in reality. The effect can be stunning and will be a new part of the director's toolset. We haven't even begun to understand the new visual playing field that opens up with Stereo 3D moviemaking and it's important to begin exploring now.
As I said earlier, and regardless of any negative press, the reality is this; 2D to 3D conversion represents a tremendous opportunity for our industry right now and it's no secret that the pipeline for new projects is quite full. Rob Hummel is the CEO of Prime Focus Post Production in North America. They’re one of the early pioneers in 2D conversion, and as such, they’ll be one of the players influencing the future of how these projects are managed. Here’s what he had to say:
We’ve seen nothing but significant growth in the demand for 2D to 3D conversions. We’re currently on track to have seven feature film conversions in-house before the end of this month. This includes green-lit full-length projects in addition to test clips for projects that are under consideration for conversion. In fact, we’re continually being contacted by studios to do conversion tests on library titles for Blu-Ray release, by cable networks to do tests to convert television programs and by studios to help with 911 shots for theatrical stereo 3D releases. There’s a huge need for 3D content and a growing number of players to meet this demand, but we’re hoping to distinguish ourselves by offering a high quality, fast and iterative artist-driven service that gives a lot of creative control to the filmmaker.
Because our process is iterative, it allows the filmmaker to review the shot and if he, or she, doesn’t like the depth cue, we can make those adjustments almost in real time. For example, if we made it look like a character is 3 feet in front of the building when the filmmaker needs it to look like he’s 10 feet in front of the building, these adjustments can be done in real time, with the new depth version rendered and available to see within the hour. This lessens the negative impact if a filmmaker changes his or her mind later down the production pipeline.
What people often don’t realize is that even when a film is shot in stereo, there is almost always some digital 2D-3D post conversion that’s done after the fact to sweeten challenging shots. We did 180 Visual Effects shots on Avatar and there were several occasions where we used 2D to 3D conversion in service of the Visual Effects. We’re proud to say everyone we’ve spoken to can’t tell the difference between the natively captured 3D material and our converted material!
3D is like the Wild West out there with very little standards and procedures in place both on the creation front and the exhibition side of things. I’ve spoken about the topic at many conferences on 3D and technology this year and it’s great to see studio, technology and theatrical leaders in our industry agree that we need to all band together to help the format along and ensure that there is premium product out there to keep audiences coming to the theaters!
I applaud the 2D to 3D conversion crowd for making an important first step. Learning by doing is always a good idea.
For over a decade, IRIDAS has become world renowned for its innovations in the digital filmmaking industry, redefining the way artists view, manipulate, enhance and produce their digital creations. As the industry’s earliest pioneers of stereoscopic review solutions and real-time color grading and manipulation techniques, IRIDAS taps its legacy of engineering expertise to streamline production and post production workflows, from onset to finishing, and is making stereoscopic moviemaking an everyday reality. For more information, please visit www.iridas.com.