During the recent 3D Creative Summit in London, 3D Focus caught up with Dr Barry Sandrew, Founder & CCO/CTO of Legend3D, following a session that discussed the use of 2D to 3D conversion.
The man who invented digital colourisation presented 3D clips of the movie 300, a dog food commercial (my favourite) and a trailer of a major summer blockbuster Legend3D is currently converting.
The company has converted some of the highest profile 3D movies since the 3D boom in 2010 and last year converted the 1986 classic Top Gun over a twelve week period which, according to Sandrew, is currently doing very well on Blu-ray and is exceeding all expectations.
Angus Cameron (Vision 3), Barry Sandrew (Legend3D), Matt Bristowe (Prime Focus World) before Post Conversion Evolves talk at 3D Creative Summit
In the first of a two part interview we start by asking Sandrew whether Legend3D has any creative influence on how a movie is converted.
Dr Barry Sandrew: I believe that one of the reasons Legend3D has become the gold standard for conversion is because we have had assigned to us some of the most demanding task masters when it comes to stereo like Corey Turner, Rob Engle and Phil McNally. These stereographers really know their craft and we have learned an incredible amount from them. They set the quality bar for Legend3D from the very beginning so we’ve known no other way to do conversion.
Other conversion studios haven’t had the benefit of this experience so they have not developed an eye for tentpole quality conversion. As a result of our reputation for quality, in many cases we are given creative freedom by the filmmakers. We are currently converting one summer tentpole film in which the director has given us complete creative freedom, albeit with his buy off. In other words, the studio has not assigned a separate stereographer to the project, but instead made the decision to rely on us. To date, he has kicked back a very small fraction of shots.
With Top Gun, Tony Scott gave us complete creative freedom and we had no kickbacks of our work at all. He was very happy with our results.
Conversion artists work in Legend3D's new California facility
3D Focus: Conversion for broadcast does not appear to have had much take-up. Is Legend3D any nearer to offering a cost effective solution?
Dr Barry Sandrew: It’s a real challenge but we’ve developed a solution for broadcast, which can also be used for some catalogue titles. It is neither real time nor a hybrid of 'real time plus manual' conversion. I contend that real time conversion does not work. In fact I believe it’s antithetical to conversion because conversion was and is intended to be a creative process that cannot be substituted with a push button solution. Real time conversion will not produce creative quality that is acceptable in my mind. In fact I consider it an insult to our audiences. Our broadcast process is separate from our theatrical process. Nevertheless, while it falls within broadcast budgets it remains very much a creative process. It allows us to get very high quality broadcast stereo but at a relatively affordable price.
3D Focus: Are you finally winning the conversion debate?
Dr Barry Sandrew: People who say conversion is fake and shooting with camera rigs is real have no idea what the facts are. Both are illusions, they are visual effects. Neither represents how we see the world with our two eyes nor is projected feature films in a theater, a natural stereo experience. I think that both technologies have merits though of course I’m biased toward conversion.
I’ve seen raw footage come out of 3ality’s high tech stereo rigs that looks awesome. But I think 3ality is a special case. For normal beam splitter rigs, there are many disadvantages. Also, for heavy visual effects films, most people in the industry feel that conversion is the answer. So while the debate continues, in reality both conversion and native shooting are essential creative tools for the filmmaker. It really comes down to what the filmmaker feels most comfortable using in the process of storytelling.
Legend3D was selected by Paramount and Michael Bay as the primary conversion partner for Transformers: Dark of the Moon
3D Focus: Why are some directors still choosing to shoot with 3D rigs?
Dr Barry Sandrew: Some directors have a bias against conversion. I think a lot of it comes from the media as well as a lack of accurate information about the process. Many directors have not been exposed to exceptional quality conversion. I think the industry as a whole is coming to understand that conversion is an invaluable tool for the stereo filmmaker. There are many directors who will only consider conversion. On heavy visual effects films conversion makes the most sense in terms of cost, relative simplicity.
3D Focus: What will the recent $8 million of investment mean for the growth of Legend3D?
Dr Barry Sandrew: The interesting thing about Legend3D is that it is not a corporate type of environment and I think that’s why filmmakers like to work with us. It’s more of an academic environment but with an eye for bottom line efficiency. I think in the past year we have registered 12 to 15 new patents so the acceleration of our quality and efficiency has been remarkable. Our commitment to R&D is very aggressive and the investment will help us get to our next significant technology advances.
In fact, we have had a 65% increase in efficiency over the past year because of our production management and asset control system. With our system, a client studio doesn’t have to wonder about the status of their movie. We can give them a remote dashboard for their computer that has the statistics customized to their need. They can see throughout the day, every day the status of every shot is on their movie and when it is going to be delivered to them.
3D Focus: How did you get involved with colourisationbn and do you still take on colourisation projects?
Dr Barry Sandrew: I invented DIGITAL colorization in 1987. Prior to my invention there was an analog colorization technology that created all the quality issues. Blobs of color that followed peoples faces. It was really nothing more than a filter that followed the faces. My technology created a photo real quality that was significantly enhanced when I reinvented it in 2000. At Legend Films (predecessor to Legend3D), we color converted about 150 films including 100 titles for our own library. They can be found on our web site.
When I first started 3D conversion in earnest I had to turn down a 30-feature film colourisation project from Eastern Europe. The margins in colourisation are so minimal compared to 3D it’s really not worth the man hours. However, we are the only company I know of that can do an entire feature and we really have a monopoly on the quality so when CBS comes to us with some “I Love Lucy” shows we are not going to turn them down because CBS really has no where else to go. As long as we don’t lose money, we’ll continue to do select colourisation projects.
PART TWO TOMORROW!
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