Costs and 3-D conversion


The holy grail for the cost of converting a feature to stereoscopic 3-D appears to be $50,000-$75,000 per minute, according to Buzz Hays, senior producer of 3-D stereoscopic feature films at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

This range, he said, looks like the point where companies are willing to invest in 3-D, though he emphasized that production needs to be made more efficient to meet this goal.

Costs, time and technology were among the topics during a frank discussion about the 2-D-to-3-D stereoscopic conversion process, presented Thursday by the Visual Effects Society Education/Technology Committee. The standing-room-only event was staged for members of the VES, DGA and Producers Guild of America.

Addressing scheduling, Hays estimated that a conversion could be a six- to nine-month process at Imageworks but admitted that the company already has ramped up for the work. Here's the kicker: Hayes estimated that the conversion process of a feature if handled by a single person could equate to roughly 26,000 days.

"To ensure 3-D stereoscopic (films), we need to find better and less expensive (production techniques)," he said. "We need to find ways to automate (the process) to make it more efficient, without compromising quality." The process, he said, is roughly 40% elements prep, which includes a large amount of rotoscoping, a process in which animators capture movement information by tracing over film frames, and 60% compositing and other post processes.

Also presenting was Phil McNally, who supervised the stereoscopic process on the Walt Disney Co.'s "Meet the Robinsons" and is now on board at DreamWorks Animation as global stereoscopic supervisor. He addressed creativity, saying the 3-D torch has been passed to the artists after past technological setbacks.

"We've really eliminated 90% of the technology problems, now it's up to us, the artists … to take the story and create something unique for stereoscopic 3-D," he said.