We've been covering the Blu-ray Disc Association virtual roundtables as they happen. We've already been able to cover Disney's thoughts on the format with the first one, and what goes into the process in restoring some of Warner Bros. classics. With the third roundtable we got to talk to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment about 2D to 3D conversions.
This roundtable was convened to talk about 2D to 3D conversions of past films. It was specifically targeting and promoting Fox's re-release of 'I, Robot' which has now received an after-the-fact conversion to 3D.
The people present at this roundtable included Andy Parsons, Chair, BDA US Promotions Committee and Ian Harvey, Senior Vice President, Advanced Technology for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
After a short introduction of the participants and their expertise in the field, we dove right into the Q&A session. With the growth of 3D technology finding its way into people's homes, this seems like an apropos Q&A session. The session answers questions about future 3D conversions and what we can expect to see from studios moving forward with 3D technology.
[Note: The text has been cleaned up for grammar and spelling errors from a live chat environment.]
Q: Is this one of first major studio movies to get this treatment -- is this a new strategy for studios and the industry? How many 2D-to-3D conversions of catalog titles do you expect in 2013, and which ones might be coming next? Also, how did this movie get chosen for conversion?
Andy Parsons: My understanding is that this is the first live action film to be directly converted to 3D for release on Blu-ray 3D. As Ian mentioned [referring to the introduction], they select films for conversion based on a number of factors, including the existing fan base and the nature of the content itself. As for what's coming down the line, I'll leave that for individual studios to answer.
Q: How and why was this movie chosen to be converted to 3D, and what other 2D movies are being targeted for 3D conversion?
Ian Harvey: As I mentioned, 'I, Robot' has an existing fan base and it is also a perfect 3D title, in that it has many scenes that are ideal for 3D action.
Q: With 4k getting more attention, does the BDA have plans to introduce 4k to the space and is it possible to have 4k, 3D?
Andy Parsons: The BDA recently decided to form a new task force to study just this sort of possibility. It's called the format extension study task force, and it will do exactly what its name suggests: to study new technologies such as 4K, high frame rate, color enhancements, etc. Each technology that will be studied needs to be evaluated to determine technical feasibility, market demand, and potential impact on the installed base of Blu-ray players already in the marketplace, projected to be in excess of 50 million in the U.S. alone by the end of 2012.
Q: Is there a special process needed to ensure that curved surfaces still have a "roundness" to them, rather than having a "cardboard cutout in 3D space" look and feel?
Ian Harvey: Yes, this is a very good question. One of the things we focus on is the natural look of the content. In order to achieve this, we use a very sophisticated 3D model within the conversion tool. This helps provide that "roundness" and detail to the features. This can be done by manual methods by additional roto and paint, however our process has automation for this feature.
Q: Do you think it is possible to bring a conversion up to the quality of a film that's shot in 3D from the outset?
Ian Harvey: I think this will be a consumer decision, we feel that our process can provide an excellent experience for the consumer on titles that were not originally shot in 3D. We believe that both conversions and natively shot content will exist for some time, our focus is on high quality conversion of catalog titles for now.
Andy Parsons: I don't have data on hand at this moment about Blu-ray 3D titles, but we're hearing that the consumer response has been very positive for these existing titles due to their high popularity and existing audiences. One of the points that came out of our discussion today is that having a chance to experience a film that people love in a new way is a key objective of Blu-ray 3D.
Q: I heard you say the depth is still approached as window-into-world philosophy -- has there been any consumer tests for more dynamic 3D that pushes out of screen more?
Ian Harvey: I think this is very dependent on the approach and the content in question. We want people to enjoy the content and be immersed in the content, not wowed by the gimmick of 3D. Some titles may benefit from 3D popping out of the screen, however the titles we have considered do not fall into this category.
Q: Do you think 3D will ever become common place, or will it be a novelty piece of the format?
Andy Parsons: As with any format, the opportunity for market success is highly driven by content availability -- the more titles that are available, the better the chances of mass market adoption. This is one of the reasons we wanted to focus on 2D to 3D conversion today, as the enormous catalog of 2D titles is a logical way to build up 3D content more quickly instead of having to wait for new theatrical releases only. I think Ian has shown that "good 3D" is something that can be accomplished if it's done correctly, so this is a good sign for the growth of 3D titles and increasing the adoption rate.
Q: What are some of the specific challenges when you convert a film to 3D?
Ian Harvey: Special effects in the original content is usually a challenge. Depending on the sophistication of the effects, adding 3D to the effect can require different ways of handling the effect. Smoke, steam, rain are obvious examples of challenges.
Q: There was a lot of talk about 3D broadcast, but it doesn't seem to have taken off as anticipated, how does that affect adoption? Can BD 3D drive adoption without broadcast?
Andy Parsons: I think Blu-ray 3D provides the very best possible way to experience 3D in the home, so it's the best medium to drive adoption, especially when we consider the care and attention to detail that Ian discussed today (i.e., making "good 3D" is vital to achieving broad consumer acceptance).
Q: How is 3D doing in the marketplace, in terms of TV's, Blu-ray players and titles?
Andy Parsons: The sales of TVs and playback devices has been strong, partly because it's become virtually a standard feature. As I mentioned in a previous answer, I think the adoption rate of 3D will be mostly driven by content availability, as all of that hardware is not useful without something to watch on it. To that end, our session today was focused on conversion of existing titles that can help build up the library as rapidly as possible, which should help to increase adoption of 3D, both on Blu-ray and in general.
That's it for this Q&A. Did you learn some new things? Did something catch your eye that you'd like to discuss with your other 3D enthusiast friends? Then click on the link below and head on over to our forums to join in on the conversation.