Expert: The Biggest Challenge in 3D Conversion

Stereo D's Graham Clark tells SMPTE confab that time constraints pose a problem and also emphasizes creativity over technology.

The biggest challenge in 2D-to-3D conversion is time constraints, Stereo D stereography chief Graham Clark said Thursday during the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Convention and Expo at Hollywood & Highland.

The conversion is a contentious issue in professional circles, but it also became a public topic because of the negative response to the "Clash of the Titans" conversion, along with Warner Bros.' high-profile decision to abandon the 3D-converted release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I."

At SMPTE, Clark emphasized creativity over technology.

"The main thing is this is an artistic process," he said of conversion. "Composing things in 3D space is every bit as artistic as composing things in 2D space."

Stereo D is working on the 2D-to-3D conversions of "Thor" and "Gulliver's Travels." The company also did a small amount of conversion work on James Cameron's "Avatar," and most recently, its process was used on "Jackass 3D." The Stereo D process primarily uses proprietary software with nearly none of it automated, Clark said.

A key issue in conversion, he said, is a rethinking of traditional schedules.

"Because there are so many factors that go into deciding how to compose a shot, you need interaction time with the producer, director, cinematographer -- so you are not, at the eleventh hour, changing things," he said. "Also, visual effects studios are used to handing off [VFX elements] at the eleventh hour. Conversion is new in the film pipeline, and people aren't used to having to hand stuff off earlier. Also, digital intermediate companies have to send us a one light earlier in the process because that affects our depth choices."

Clark said there are myriad reasons why conversion might be used. For example, "a lot of movies do conversion or a hybrid, depending on where filmmakers are able to put cameras or how quickly they need to do setups during production.

"Another advantage to conversion is that you can compose in 3D space," he added. "There are some tools being developed to recompose live-action, that is changing the relationship between things -- how close things are to each other in a shot. That is something that we can easily do in conversion. With live-action, that is not really possible. There are some tools being developed for that, but they are not really there yet. It will take some time."

Clark said that as the processes evolve, there will be a change in thinking about 2D-to-3D conversion.

"Given time, it will become a very valued part of filmmaking, alongside shooting live," he said. "It is not that live is superior, in many cases conversion creates a better result. It is just matter of having enough time."