In-Three, Reliance ink 3D deal

New conversion operation set to launch in February

A new partnership between 2D/3D conversion company In-Three and Mumbai-headquartered media giant Reliance might signal that a surge of new 3D content is on the way next year.

Reliance MediaWorks, a film and entertainment services company and a member of the Reliance ADA group, inked a deal with Westlake Village, Calif.-based In-Three to create a massive Mumbai-based facility dedicated to 2D/3D conversion. The operation will use In-Three's proprietary Dimensionalization process to convert new productions as well as library titles to 3D.

"We feel next year is going to a big year for 3D for theaters and the home," said Neil Feldman, CEO of In-Three, which recently worked on Disney's 3D "G-Force." "We anticipate such a large volume of work that we need capacity, and that is where Reliance comes in. We are setting this up in advance."

Slated to launch in February, the operation intends to hire hundreds of employees -- possibly as many as 600 -- during its first year. They will be trained and equipped to handle 15-25 feature film projects a year. Further out, the companies expect the staff to number in the thousands.

The companies said that work on the first joint title will commence early next year, with several more projects planned for a start in the year's first half. Titles were not disclosed.

The number of 3D cinema screens worldwide recently topped 6,000, and the transition continues to move forward albeit at a slower pace than many had hoped. It is expected that the first projects from the facility will include new features and legacy titles as well as theatrical commercials.

TV series might not be far off as the consumer electronics industry is preparing a big push for 3D-ready TVs and Blu-ray Disc players at next month's Consumer Electronics Show. A steady stream of content will be required to drive the fledgling market.

The cost of creating content can be a barrier, and the agreement also takes aim at that issue. Conversion costs for 3D vary greatly depending on the complexity of the material and the process as some techniques are moving toward an automated commodity business, while others, including In-Three's system, often involve the filmmakers who make depth-related creative decisions.

For the Dimentionalization process, Feldman said the Reliance deal could help reduce turnaround time while bringing down production costs, which could realize savings of 25%-45% compared with the current In-Three model.

The alliance is enabled by the creation this year of Reliance's business process outsourcing operation in Mumbai that houses a massive restoration and image processing unit -- it also will include the In-Three unit -- in about 90,000 square feet of space.

Reliance last year acquired Burbank-based restoration/imaging processing business Lowry Digital and is expanding its capabilities and services in the new space, and the company sees the addition of In-Three as a good fit.

"Reliance MediaWorks already does image enhancement and restoration for the leading Hollywood studios, and the expansion of services into 2D-to-3D conversion was a natural next step for the company," Reliance MediaWorks CEO Anil Arjun said.

This move is the latest in Reliance MediaWorks' bullish growth plan. Arjun said the company eventually wants to offer "everything to do with creating a film, as well as exhibition."

Reliance MediaWorks' film services include motion picture processing, digital intermediate, visual effects, film restoration and image enhancement, digital mastering, studios and equipment rentals. It also operates television venture Big Synergy and cinema chain BIG Cinemas. Reliance, of course, famously inked a financing deal last year with DreamWorks.

"Reliance MediaWorks is in the business of enabling storytellers," Arjun said. "Our entire suite of services is geared toward this objective. We see 3D as a compelling opportunity and believe the next two years are major milestone years and aim to be catalysts in this for growth."