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How Long Before They Post-Convert "Wizard of Oz" into 3D?

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With a revamped 3D version of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace attempting to ravage the wallets of fans, and a similarly enhanced Titanic on the way courtesy of James Cameron, you have to start wondering how far this trend will go. Will they dig up Casablanca and post-convert it with the hopes that the bar scenes will feel more atmospheric? Or will they try to make us believe through the magic of 3D hindsight that we're somewhere over the rainbow with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? It's one thing when studios commit to post-converting an upcoming blockbuster like The Amazing Spider-Man or The Avengers, but is there a cut-off point where studios acknowledge that at some level film is art and should be left as it was originally intended? Or will they try to convince us that like George Lucas and James Cameron, all directors would have wanted to see their films this way, but they simply lacked the technology? It's a slippery slope, and one they seem all too eager to slide down.

Before we begin, let's make one thing clear: we're not against 3D films when the films were originally planned and filmed with that third dimension in mind by the director. And that's the sticking point: "originally". Even if that director comes back 10 or 20 years after the fact and personally manages the post-conversion of the film into 3D, one problem remains: they didn't film the movie with 3D in mind. Consequently, instead of going back into archived video files that have raw 3D data, all the director is really doing is creating layers that they then stack on top of one another in an effort to simulate some level of depth. Sometimes, when they're incredibly meticulous about the process, the final effect isn't all that bad, and maybe it does improve the viewing experience.

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But all bullshit aside, there's really only one reason why a studio wants to revisit a film and have it rereleased in 3D. It's not for artistic integrity and it's not to enhance an audience's enjoyment. It's for the extra $4-$8 the audience spends on the ticket. But wait, it's an even sweeter deal than that! Have you ever wondered why studios are wont to reboot, sequel, prequel, adapt, or spin-off a property rather than gamble on something new and fresh? It's because filmmaking is a business, and it would be silly to take a risk on an unknown when they have a vault of established winners at their fingertips. The only problem with that vault is that everyone's already seen that stuff, and chances are they own a personal copy at home. So how do you justify putting a known quantity back in theaters with a premium pricetag?

Post-conversion 3D.

We can brush it off as cynicism, but first let's ask ourselves: do you really think Warner Brothers hasn't considered post-converting The Matrix into 3D? You know they have. There's probably a list somewhere. Just as I'm sure Sony has toyed with the idea of releasing Sam Raimi's Spider-man Trilogy in 3D to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was their boffo box office. Heck, if Fox thinks people will turn out for The Phantom Menace again (which is proving to be not nearly as true as they must have expected), why should Spider-man 3 be any different? The current Hollywood theory dictates that 3D is a strong enough driving force that it can override the memory of walking out of a movie theater shaking your head in disappointment.

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There is one exception to this rule, and one studio has already figured it out: animation. Disney has already turned it's "Oh my God, post-covert everything!" gaze upon its library, and so far to great success. But there's a reason why. Both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King already involved a certain level of 3D and computer imaging in their productions, and so it wasn't like Disney was going back and retracing every cel. In fact, what they had to do was omit a step that 2D film required: flattening the final frames. In a way, creating 3D versions of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast actually required less manipulation. Yes, they did have to go through and assign the two halves of the 3D projection, but the animated medium made that relatively easy.

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That makes us wonder: will Pixar start rereleasing its previously 2D films in 3D? If any part of Disney has it easy when it comes to turning an older film into a 3D blockbuster, it's them. Their films already exist within a 3D rendered environment, converting it to 3D is a no-brainer. Nevermind that people would happily turn out for Finding Nemo or The Incredibles in 3D. It's only a matter of time, but the question is whether or not studios will have the wisdom and the restraint to figure out which films naturally lend themselves to 3D post-conversion and which ones should be left alone.

We're not holding our breath.

Feb
16
2012
Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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