The Will Smith 2004 science-fiction film “i, Robot” has become the first major live-action 2D studio film to be converted to 3D exclusively for a Blu-ray release this week.
It’s an encouraging move and it looks remarkably effective. There are some scenes, such as when Smith looks over the railing on an upper level floor, down an enclosed atrium, when the shot appears to have been designed for 3D. Even the most routine scenes have visible depth.
Ian Harvey, Senior Vice President, Advanced Technology for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, said during a virtual roundtable Wednesday that the movie was chosen because the film lends itself to the format, has a substantial fan base, and the movie probably would have been produced in 3D if it had been released more recently.
Andy Parsons, Chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association U.S. Promotions Committee, says converting 2D movies to 3D will allow the industry to more quickly build a substantial number of Blu-ray 3D choices for consumers who currently have only the new and recent 3D theatrical films to choose from. Only a few animated studio films like several “Shrek” movies have been converted to 3D.
“The more titles that are available, the better the chances of mass market adoption,” he said. “The enormous catalog of 2D titles is a logical way to build up 3D content more quickly instead of having to wait for new theatrical releases only.”
Harvey, who is responsible for the analysis and development of new technologies at Fox Home Entertainment, believes Blu-ray 3D is the ideal format for home viewing because it provides the full HD image for both the left eye and right eye, and because of the higher bit-rate on Blu-ray as compared to signals delivered for TV.
Harvey said the conversion process is not much different than converting movies for theatrical release. The entire movie is examined to identify elements that need to be pushed out for 3D by a roto-artist. The objects are separated for the right eye and left eye, then the missing images in the newly-created space are filled in by an automated conversion tool.As for the creative choices in converting to 3D, Harvey said Fox is opting for the same subtle approach of most filmmakers who choose the approach of presenting the illusion of looking through a window into a 3D world as opposed to pushing 3D images off the screen towards the audience.
Meanwhile, the BDA is studying additional enhancements such as 4K and high frame rates for the Blu-ray format that is expected to grow to an installed base of 50 million players in the U.S. alone by the end of 2012.
– By Scott Hettrick