Fox’s Debut Of 'I, Robot' On Blu-Ray 3D Launches Effort To Convert More Library Titles

I, Robot Will Smith Still - H 2012
Twentieth Century Fox

I, Robot Will Smith Still - H 2012

A "handful” of additional library titles are getting the 3D treatment.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Oct. 23 Blu-Ray 3D release of 2004 sci-fi action film I, Robot, helmed by Alex Proyas and starring Will Smith, was the first to be remastered in stereo with new conversion technology developed to help grow the 3D home market.

Using the new JVC Kenwood 2D3D workstation—technology that was developed in collaboration with Fox and first previewed in public last winter at the Hollywood Post Alliance Technology Retreat—Fox is in the process of converting a “handful” of additional titles, though the studio declined to name them. Studio representatives acknowledged that Will Smith’s team has seen the I, Robot conversion and has “asked questions” about other Will Smith movies.

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There are various moving parts that need to come together if the industry is to built a 3D market for the home, and one is more available content. But the economic model is an issue, with some estimates putting the cost of 3D conversion on average between $30,000-$100,000 per minute.

While Fox isn’t commenting on the cost for using the new JVC technology, Ian Harvey, senior vp, advanced technology at Fox, indicated that it is less than other techniques and services that Fox has explored.

In additional to cost saving, Harvey said the JVC technology could speed up the conversion process by minimizing the amount of manual rotoscoping and paint work that is required in the technique. He added that it allowed the team to create “more exciting 3D” in I, Robot by adding visual effects, for instance additional breaking glass in action sequences.

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“The objectives were to automate where possible and improve manuel processes,” said Dave Walton, assistant vp, marketing and communications at JVC. He added that the technology is currently designed for HD work and is therefore aimed at the home entertainment market, but in time it could be “adopted in the future for 4K cinema.”

Harvey said he sees promise as the technology allows his team to create 3D that looks "natural." He pointed out that in contrast, some 2D-to-3D conversions have had “depth but they are flat” with what is sometimes described as having a “cardboard” look.

The conversion work on I, Robot was accomplished at VideoTek, a Japan-based subsidiary of JVC. A creative team including a stereographer was involved in the work though Proyas didn’t work on this project.

While Fox is currently working with JVC with an eye toward offering library titles in Blu-Ray 3D, the studio intends to later explore showing such titles on 3DTV channels, as well as via digital distribution platforms.

Harvey is not, however, recommending the technology for conversion of new productions. “They should still shoot new films in 3D,” he said. “There are still issues on any conversion. It is not like Avatar.”