Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CinemaCon 2011: Spoke With Cameron, Landau And Lucas At Luncheon - Prime Focus Update

Hey guys! Exciting day as I was present for the luncheon today at CinemaCon focused on stereoscopic 3D.

I had the pleasure of talking briefly with Jim Cameron and Jon Landau before the session started. Jim introduced me to George Lucas as I had never met him before and let me tell you, if you are going to meet Lucas you can't do any better than a nice intro from Mr. Cameron! Did not get a chance to speak with Katzenberg. Michael Lewis from RealD moderated the panel.

It was a very special day in a number of ways but not the least of which was the content of the event which was worth the trip in my mind. I captured the whole thing on video and will get segments of it up ASAP.

The major points were:

George Lucas:
1. Theaters are here forever.
2. ILM worked with Prime Focus on converting EPISODE I.
3. 3D is like color. He compared 3D to color and digital to sound in that sound and digital has changed everything but color and 3D have improved it. We are at the same stage with digital as we were with celluloid in 1900.
4. EPISODE VII will be in 3D and holographic!!! (Tongue in cheek) - however, we all know that it is coming... :-)
5. The reason he is doing another re-release is simply because there is a new generation of kids out there that own the mvoies, play with the toys and recite the dialogue, yet they don't have their own modern release. This one in 3D is for them.

Jeffrey Katzenberg:
1. Thinks #1 new thing coming in 5 to 10 years is being able to eat a meal at the theater (like ALAMO does today).
2. DWA has new chips on their way (really just scalable parallel processing) that will enable his team to work in REALTIME rather than wait and wait for rendering before being able to see their work and edit.
3. After seeing Zemeckis' POLAR EXPRESS in 3D, that was the moment he decided 3D was for DWA and bet the bank on it.

Jim Cameron:
1. Thinks 48 or 60 frames per second will be the next big thing and I happen to agree. More on this tomorrow!
2. Still against conversion for first run movies in that he believes native 3D is superior (I agree on this!), though he is converting TITANIC. Obviously they aren't going to redo the movie in native 3D!
3. True conversions should take 6 to 8 months, not 6 to 8 weeks and only about 20 movies are worthy enough to be converted.
4. AVATAR 2 and 3 are planned to be shot at higher framerates.

To add some further flavor to this post, I spoke with Bobby Jaffe with Prime Focus last night (and met him today along with his team) about their work on STAR WARS: EPISODE I.

Prime Focus was the sole 3rd party converter on this project and contrary to reports on other websites, the conversion is COMPLETELY done. ILM assisted of course. PF was doing 5 other movies concurrently with EPISODE I, yet completed the work in 16 to 18 weeks (not including 2 months of prep time with ILM and Lucasfilm). This is in contrast to the statement Cameron made today about the time it takes for a good conversion NOT being 6 to 8 weeks, but rather 6-8 months. Obviously 16-18 weeks is over double that smaller time period, but still makes you think if there was enough time to do it justice.

Bobby Jaffe assures me that there was enough time. They certainly have the manpower to accomplish it with 3000 total worldwide employees in LA, London and Mumbai, two thirds of which are in 3D conversion (the other third is in CG effects).

George Lucas himself took a very personal role in the conversion process as he reviewed the reels and progress made through ILM once shipped from Prime Focus.

So why should we be a little more confident about 3D conversions from Prime Focus after the CLASH OF THE TITANS debacle? Well for a number of reasons:
1. Prime Focus' expertise has grown over the past 18 months. Katzenberg mentioned this as well as to how production costs have come down from $15m to $10 to make a 3D movie in his house.
2. Much improved conversion technology. Of course no technology company is going to idly sit by and watch their tech go obsolete and so it is with Prime Focus as well.
3. The Lucasfilm vote of confidence. This is what does it for me, just as it did when DWA endorsed Legend 3D for their conversion projects. Any company that George Lucas chooses to do business with has been vetted and vetted again in order to get the keys to their kingdom, STAR WARS.

Lastly I asked Bobby that if he could name just one scene in EPISODE I that looks the best in converted 3D. Of course he said what I was thinking he would say: The pod racing. Makes sense right? Can't wait to see this thing!!

Conversion has come a long way since I started MarketSaw in early 2006. A VERY long way. I am still with Cameron in that native 3D is still superior to conversion for stereoscopic needs, but let me tell you that I am not hesitant in going to and recommending a 3D conversion for audiences. THE GREEN HORNET was amazingly well done. Not perfect, but well done.

Of course I still have Jim Cameron's framerate discussion tomorrow morning as well! And I hope to speak further with him one on one as well. STAY TUNED!!

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