The 2D to 3D conversion of videos and movies is still getting mostly bad publicity due to not so good examples of projects that were rushed too much, or were done on the cheap, however when properly made, using enough resources and expertise, and taken the right amount of time needed, the final result might actually be really good and hardly distinguishable from a material shot in 3D. The recent announcements about upcoming 2D to 3D conversions of very popular older, but cult movies like Titanic and the Star Wars saga has yet again led to a lot of controversy regarding the conversion process. But I had the chance to do a short interview with an expert in the field of 2D to 3D conversions, getting his opinion on some key subjects that a lot of people are interested in. I’m talking about Barry Sandrew who is the Founder, President, and COO of Legend3D – one of the top companies specialized in 2D to 3D conversion…
Barry, please briefly introduce yourself to the readers of the 3D Vision Blog.
My career began evolving in the entertainment business in 1986, when I invented the first digital process for colorization. Prior to that, I served as a staff neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. I’ve been involved in the film and television industry for more than 23 years and am responsible for more than 14 VFX patents. In 2005, I founded Legend3D, a dynamic digital media and visual effects company that utilizes a patented 2D-to-3D conversion technology. This technology was recently used to complete the 3D conversion for the most complex portions of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland as well as three films for DreamWorks, and continues to be an access point for filmmakers, studios, and library holders across the globe.
Please provide a short overview of Legend3D – how did you start the company and what does it specialize in?
In 2005, I merged my expertise in graphic arts, image processing and neurophysiology to develop Legend3D’s patented 2D-to-3D conversion process, along with my associate, Greg Passmore. We advanced the colorization technology I created in 1986, and developed a proprietary process that combines technology and artistry to convert films from 2D to 3D. Today, my patented 3D technology has established Legend3D as a leader in the stereo conversion industry.
At Legend3D, we specialize in enhancing filmmakers’ storytelling by deepening their connections with audiences through the highest quality 3D, whether they are converting movies, television, advertisements, or mobile content.
You handled some of the conversion for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. What were you specifically involved with (i.e. what scenes?)
Legend3D was responsible for converting the following scenes:
– The Mad Hatter’s sewing room
– Scene of Alice falling into the round room
– The Mad Hatter’s tea party
– Scene where Alice meets the Tweedles in the castle
– Majority of the castle scenes with the Queen of Hearts
– Part of the battle scene at the end
– The goodbye scene where Mad Hatter says goodbye
– The execution scene where the Queen of Hearts is watching the Mad Hatter get his head chopped off
– Much of the mushroom forest chases
– Scenes where Stayne and The Mad Hatter are fighting in the makeup room
– Other shots and scenes
Unlike Alice in Wonderland, which turned out to be a real blockbuster, Clash of the Titans was not well accepted. What is your opinion about the conversion process used for that film?
2D to 3D conversion is a time-intensive process. Clash was simply a reflection of pushing the process in too tight of a timeframe, in this case 10 weeks which actually turned into a time frame of 5 to 7 weeks. This can’t be done with quality.
What is your opinion about bad 2D to 3D conversions? Can they drive away viewers from 3D movies in general?
Of course, there’s always the likelihood that bad conversions will detract audiences. However, we have to remember that even with Clash of the Titans, the film broke holiday box office records. 3D has a way of immersing audiences that 2D cannot and that experience, even at a premium, is proving to be popular among consumers. I hope that the theater going audience and the eventual home video 3D enthusiasts become discerning consumers and reject poorly converted product.
Please discuss the 2D to 3D conversion process Legend3D uses and explain why it produces convincing results.
I can’t get into the technology in detail because it is proprietary. However, I can tell you that we use our colorization masking technology which produces better and more organic results than the traditional roto methods that all others use. Our process for creating volume in 3D is considerably different than all the other processes. It has proven to be higher quality and faster than the other conversion companies.
Are there scenes that are harder to convert from 2D to 3D, or that are even impossible to do a convincing volume perception? Or given enough time and resources, can any scene be converted?
I can’t conceive of any scenes that can’t be converted convincingly. Believe it or not, an intense dolly shot of two people eating lunch in an outdoor restaurant setting is more difficult than an effects heavy scene with explosions and pyro. The former is less forgiving and requires much more attention to detail.
Why are more studios considering shooting in 2D and going for 3D conversion over shooting with 3D cameras? Is it only because of the higher costs associated with shooting everything in 3D?
The market for 2D-to-3D conversion and 3D content represents an extremely large, fast-growing opportunity for studios worldwide. When filmmakers rely on conversion, they have tremendous flexibility to shoot as they always have and that’s extremely appealing compared to the constraints of shooting natively in 3D. 3D rigs are awkward and very tricky to use and two cameras have to be perfectly aligned and identical in every aspect. The director then has to spend extra time to block and frame a shot rather than in 3D.
To answer your question, there are higher costs involved when shooting in native 3D. However, studios are turning to 3D conversion for other reasons as well. Conversion continues to remain the preferred solution for filmmakers who are more comfortable in the 2D medium. Additionally, the quality of conversion from top companies, like Legend3D, are continuing to dramatically improve, making the process essential for effects driven feature films that demand cost effective solutions.
Do you see a lot of movie studios starting to work on conversions of older popular titles in order to bring them back onto theatre screens?
Absolutely. As you can imagine there are numerous older library films that lend themselves to 3D – for example Star Wars, the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Jurassic Park, Titanic, and, of course, animated films. Conversion is the only way the industry is going to create enough content to get to “critical mass” in the consumer market.
Do you think there is a potential market for TV shows and even advertisements to soon start getting their 2D-to-3D treatment with all the attention 3D is getting from home users?
The 3D home market is primed for growth, and with the onset of 3D programming from ESPN, Discovery, and DirectTV, it’s only natural that 3D advertisement will soon experience an increase in popularity. We’ve already received great interest from brands and advertisers looking to convert ads.
Can you share information about recent projects that you finished working on or are starting with, or is this confidential?
Legend3D has been one of the industry’s most sought-after companies for 2D-to-3D projects. As I mentioned earlier, we most recently performed many of the most intricate portions of the 3D conversion for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. We’re also responsible for converting the first digital 3D advertisement to ever appear in movie theaters, titled “Skittles Transplant” for M&M Mars, which debuted June 1, 2009. In February 2009, Legend3D converted the opening credits and interstitials for the Super Bowl episode of “Chuck,” which was the first television show to ever air in 3D. Currently, we’re finishing a multi-picture deal with a major studio and beginning the conversion work on an upcoming feature film release for another studio.
What do you see in the future for 2D-to-3D conversion – say five or 10 years from now?
I see 3D conversion becoming an essential part of the 3D equation. Many of our most popular films will be converted as well as TV series and commercials. Vintage sports are also a possibility. Can you imagine the Ali/Fraser fight in stereo? Would be amazing to see and we can make it look exactly like it would if you were there in person.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
3D is not only a huge win for theater goers; it also represents a significant economic boost for the economy. The consumer electronics industry will revitalize product replacement cycles as the new 3D HDTVs come on the market. The Blu-ray business will get a huge boost as content becomes more prevalent via 3D conversion. And of course the studios and theatrical exhibitors are already seeing historically high revenues because of 3D. It’s all very positive news!
A few months ago I’ve introduced you the just launched adult oriented stereoscopic 3D website called Adult4D that is offering high-quality stereo 3D videos and pictures for adult audiences (18+). It has been quite some time since then, so I decided to see how things were going with this interesting new project and to get some more details about it that you might find interesting to read. So here is a short interview with the founder of the website, I hope you like it and maybe even find some useful information, you can also ask some questions that you might have in the comments below…
Can you briefly introduce yourself to the readers of the blog, who you are and what you do?
Let me introduce myself as Sir Thomas Graf de Porneau, but you may call me Tom :-)
I am founder and producer of Adult4D.com – serving the worlds first XXX in FullHD-3D (that means 1920×1080 pixels for each eye).
I also work in audio-visual event and entertainment business. This background greatly helped doing my pioneer work in 3D HD porn.
When and how did you decide to start up the Adult4D stereoscopic adult entertainment website?
I have seen some great S3D films in theme parks and even produced a stereoscopic 3D live show for a client more than 10 years ago. Then in 2006 I saw an IMAX3D documentary and while still impressed by the visual 3D effects, I was disappointed with the overall content offered. I suddenly thought about a hot babe coming out of the screen while showing off her beauty (I must have been very horny then!-)
Although I did a lot of research I could not find anything satisfying. Mostly anaglyph photos which reproduce horrible skin colors – not acceptable for nudes, if you ask me. Due to the available systems and difficulties involved only a small group of gamers played S3D computer games in 2006 and just some enthusiastic experts and hobbyists made or watched s3D photos. 3D is all about technology (nobody likes flicker or headaches) and content (who buys expensive gear when there is almost nothing to watch?). So I was hoping for success of the then new 3D-ready TVs and decided to produce stereoscopic 3D erotica myself.
Your adult website has been operating for a few months already, do you see constant growth of interest and user base and are your first expectations fulfilled or not yet?
After a lot of learning, trial-and-error and experiments Adult4D.com went public in summer 2009 and it has been OK for the beginning. Luckily my first expectations were quite low as I always thought about it as a niche. That turned out to be realistic. But the Stereoscopic 3D community is growing very fast nowadays, we see a constant growth of interest in our website and receive great feedback from our members worldwide.
There is still not a lot of competition in the S3D adult content online, do you think that this year there will be a lot of new websites similar to Adult4D or not?
The only ones I know about producing full color s3D videos in good quality is 3D-eros.com – we have a friendly and positive contact. Apart from this Asian site I only found some adult sites, who just started offering anaglyph 3D nudes – like if we were in the 80s… Good 3D is quite expensive and difficult to produce – even Avatar, IMHO the greatest 3D movie ever made, has some minor errors in it. So, I just hope for competitors who produce quality content, because otherwise interested people might stay away again quickly from watching S3D. I really look forward to seeing lots and lots of good 3D content without eye-straining alignment errors and excessive sync issues!
What do you currently use for taking Stereoscopic 3D pictures and videos, and then edit and view them?
Custom rigs! We have built and experimented with 5 video rigs so far. Always trying to improve the final results. In December 2009 we got a pair of new video cameras, which enable zooms and are in sync to each other. This is important for capturing exactly the same picture on both cameras. Only progressive cameras are used as they capture full pictures instead of half-resolution, interlaced frames. We had 24p and the new cams do 30p now, which is better for fast movements. The whole workflow in post is in 1080p using a professional DI codec.
Also the photo equipment was improved. First shots were taken with a Loreo 3D lens on a Sony A700. Putting this crap plastic lens on such a good camera was not a very good idea. The output was mediocre. We changed this for shoots “x05” to “x09″ but already took the next step forward – to one of the best photo cameras syncable with SDM. Workflow in progress – everyday!
At the end of time consuming post production (about 5 hours rendering on a high-end computer for a minute of 1080p video!) I view everything on 3Dvision with a 50″ Samsung PS50B450, which is not advertised as but 3D-ready (!?). But also on two 24” FullHD monitors DIYed together in Planar-style with a half-mirror (TARDIS setup: you can find the link to make one yourself in our FAQ). Planar/Tardis gives the best 3D quality available IMHO. Even though this is more of a 3D Vision oriented blog and I like the stylish 3D Vision glasses, I have to say that I do prefer passive 3D with polarized glasses over shutters. No flicker, no batteries, cheap, light-weight, … (I am really looking forward to the upcoming new ZALMAN bundles).
What made you choose the dual-stream WMV video format for publishing your videos online, do you consider it to be the best 2D/3D viewing compatible solution for PC at the moment?
We offer 2 different formats for download to our members:
– CROSSVIEW (side-by-side w/ Right picture on Left side) in qHD resolution (1920×540 = 960×540 per eye), which is the most compatible version and even plays on quite old computers. This can be used for crossviewing on many players on PC and MAC or converted to many other 3D formats in freeware s3D players.
– 1080p DUAL-STREAM in FullHD resolution (1920×1080 full pictures per eye) which is 2D backward compatible, but currently plays 3D only in Stereoscopic Player.
The second one is the format you mention. I like it, because it also plays in FullHD-2D and does not require any special settings or codecs in Stereoscopic Player. You just choose your preferred 3D viewing method. Peter Wimmer from 3dtv.at has done an excellent job. Also this player is bundled with popular new 3D solutions like ZALMAN and 3D Vision. It is more convenient for our members than any other format I know of.
Can you share your opinion about the Blu-ray 3D standard, did you consider releasing your adult videos on it in the near future?
We follow the development for a while now and had interesting talks with some of the key players. I am happy we got a standard now and that it is backward compatible. We are ready for using it and will definitely release 3D-BDs in the near future, but we will probably not be the first ones in the industry. The quality difference between our 1080p downloads and a 3D-BD is not that big anyway. But it will definitely be a better media than 3D-DVD to help s3D succeed. Especially with the PS3 and XBOX firmware upgrades for playing 3D-Blurays in 3D, which should be available this year. Otherwise it would take years until enough people own a 3D-BD player. Then they also need a 3D-ready TV and glasses. A few million already have a 3D-ready TV, but most got no glasses to use the 3D feature. Well, I really hope for more CUSTOMER-FRIENDLY 3D BUNDLES.
A lot of people believe that 2010 will be the year of S3D, do you agree and what are your expectations?
2010: The Year We Make Contact (with Real 3D – as I like to call it).
Yes, I think it will be the kick-off year. With the huge success of Avatar and most major manufacturers like Sony, LG, JVC, Panasonic, Hyundai, … selling 3D@home equipment it will start to go mainstream. SKY UK will launch a dedicated 3D-TV satellite channel this year and the first 3D-BDs (3D blu-rays) will go on sale. But things take time: LG estimates to sell 400,000 3D-TVs in 2010 but 3.4 million in 2011. People might wait a while until they upgrade their TVs and monitors, but once they see lots of good HD-3D content available, they will be sold. Gamers will make the move forward much faster as they are used to being fast ;-) They upgrade their gear more regularly than TV users and there are already hundreds of cool games to play in S3D!
Neil Schneider from MTBS3D.com has managed to find and take an interview from James Mentz, President & CEO of Bit Cauldron while at CES 2010. I’ve already written a bit about them and their plans to Offer Alternative to Nvidia’s 3D Vision Shutter Glasses a few days ago. Bit Cauldron still don’t reveal every detail, but have told some interesting things and they sound quite convinced about the advantages of their glasses, although we’ll still have to wait for the second half to see them on the market. It seems that Bit Cauldron has been working for quite some time together with AMD/ATI in order to bring stereoscopic 3D support to the owners of ATI-based GPUs. But when talking about gaming you’ll still have to use some sort of middleware software like iZ3D’s Driver or DDD’s TriDef as it seems that these two companies will be supporting Bit Cauldron’s glasses at first. James Mentz said that they are also open to work with Nvidia (the green company) and others of course in order to work on standards that in the end will benefit the end customer the most, because he’ll be able to use just one solution for all his stereoscopic 3D needs – TV, movies, games, photos… no mater if it is for the PC, the HDTV, the console or something else. So lets see how things will develop and meanwhile I’m getting more and more eager to test these glasses…