Conversion will continue to be essential to some 2D shots

The process of converting 2D films to 3D has hit some serious speed bumps on the road to acceptance, but it will remain a key component of filmdom’s march into 3D.

That was the message emerging from a panel Thursday assembled by the Intl. 3D Society in association with the Visual Effects Society.

Without mentioning the recent brouhaha over the quality of the 3D conversion of “Clash of the Titans,” moderator and 3D tech guru Lenny Lipton asked why 2D-to-3D conversion is sometimes controversial.

Some of the negative feelings may stem from the knowledge that a converted movie is “created after the fact” and people don’t consider it the “real thing,” said Aaron Parry, topper at Stereo D, which converted the upcoming M. Night Shyamalan kid pic “The Last Airbender.”

Bad conversions have given the process a bad name, added Matt DeJohn, veep at conversion house In-Three. “It’s hard to put your finger on (why some conversions don’t work) but if depth choices don’t match depth cues, you’re going have a hard time convincing the audience” that it’s good 3D.

“When word gets out that a movie has been converted, there’s suspicion that a studio wants to get its money without doing the work,” said Variety associate editor of features David Cohen, “and that suspicion has been fueled by some of the lower-quality conversion work being done today.”

But the panelists largely agreed that conversion — which involves processing a 2D film to give it the illusion of depth — is no less authentic a way of creating 3D content than originally shooting a film stereoscopically with two cameras to yield left-eye and right-eye images. The latter creates the elements of depth at the production stage. With conversion, the illusion of depth is created in post.

“Shooting with a twin-camera setup vs. doing a subsequent 2D-to-3D conversion is a creative choice,” said Rob Hummel, topper at Prime Focus, which includes conversion among its services. “Both methods are a way to trigger depth cues in the brain.”

Hummel said one recent high-profile 3D blockbuster that was shot mostly stereoscopically contained some shots that were captured in 2D and later converted.

“We did over 40 of them, and other companies did others,” he said. “Nobody knew, and nobody complained.”

Hummel said in some situations, especially extreme close-ups, it’s not practical to shoot with a bulky two-camera rig and conversion is the preferred way to give those scenes the illusion of depth.

Conversion can also have other advantages over stereo.

“In a way, conversion gives you more creative freedom than stereo shooting,” said Corey Taylor, stereographer at Sony Pictures. “Sometimes on the set there are too many other things to think about and it’s easier to focus on 3D in post.”

” ‘Clash of the Titans’ was an anomaly,” said Barry Sandrew, prexy of conversion house Legend Films/Legend 3D. “This is still the Wild West” for the 3D industry.

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