Walking into the
facilities of Legend3D
like entering a darkened
beehive that is buzzing
with creativity. Legend3D is one of the premier
2D-to-3D conversion providers, having
contributed their services to 3D films such
as 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “The
Green Hornet,” and 2011’s “Transformers:
Dark of the Moon.” But I was there to see a
sample of their most recent conquest, the
2D-to-3D conversion of Tony Scott’s 1986
classic “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise that
Paramount Pictures will be releasing to 3D
theaters later this year.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Barry Sandrew, Ph.D., Legend3D founder,
chief creative officer and CTO, lead me
through the scattered archipelagos of desktops
adorned with both active and passive
3D screens, which he explained were divided
into workgroup areas he referred to as
“studios.” It was an atmosphere that reflected
the nurturing of creativity that seems to
be Sandrew’s management style.
But, as the owner of more than 18 VFX
patents and with 23 years of film and TV
experience to build on, it’s interesting that
Sandrew’s career path didn’t begin in film
school. Rather, from 1978 to 1986 he was
on the faculty of Harvard Medical School where he established the first Neuroscience
Imaging Laboratory in neuroradiology.
Part of his medical research involved using
color to make various parts of the brain
more visible and that lead him to successfully
co-found American Film Technologies
(AFT) in 1985, which eventually created
more than 80 percent of the colorized films
Although he can’t reveal exact details,
Sandrew’s color-conversion process uses
masking to separate elements in an image
so computer graphic artists could assign
colors to them based on their grey scale.
By 2001 Sandrew had developed his proprietary
digital color-conversion system and
founded Legend Films, Inc., a studio that has
monopolized the film colorization business.
Then in 2006, anticipating that James
Cameron’s “Avatar” would jumpstart interest
in 3D, Sandrew recognized his blackand-
white segmentation process could be the foundation for a 2D-to-3D conversion
system. It was used to convert 25 minutes
of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” In
July 2010, the organization was re-named
Legend3D Inc. on its way to becoming the
largest 2D-to-3D conversion company in the
3D IS THE FUTURE
|Kelly McGillis as Charlie and Tom Cruise as Maverick in the movie “Top Gun,” is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Sandrew is convinced 3D is the future of
both big screen and small screen entertainment.
“I’m 1,000 percent convinced that is
going to happen,” he said. “And that definitely
refers to both glasses-based and autostereoscopic
3D displays.” In fact, in his insightful
blog (bsandrew.blogspot.com) Sandrew
insists “3D is inevitable and unstoppable.”
As to the concern over needing glasses
to see it, he wrote: “I believe it’s a mob mentality
when it comes to negative feelings
about the glasses.”
During a recent interview with radio
technology guru Leo LaPorte, aka “The Tech
Guy,” Sandrew had to smile at the way La-
Porte was complaining about wearing 3D
specs despite the fact he relies on prescription
glasses all day to correct his strabismus
(abnormal alignment) eye problem. The
path to the 3D future, according to Sandrew,
is simply custom-made 3D lenses.
But in order to fulfill the needs of ’round
the clock 3D, a lot of legacy material, both
feature film and TV, is going to need to be
converted from its 2D origins.
“There are several ways to do this,” Sandrew
explained. “The cheapest is to create
individual flat planes, or cards, that use effects
like shadowing to simulate 3D. But that produces a crude 3D effect.”
Slightly better than using the cards is
“rubber sheeting,” which is like pushing
your hand through a flexible barrier to
create an image with depth. This process
doesn’t require you to fill in the 3D areas
that had previously been occluded by the
2D image, but the result does not produce
the kind of separation that makes good 3D.
The most common 2D-to-3D approach
is to use modeling projection in which you
create a wire frame of all the objects in a
shot, rotoscope the image elements and overlay them onto the model you’ve created.
But this is complex and expensive and
involves a lot of manual labor.
“The way we do it with our proprietary
system based on masking produces an absolute
separation between every object in
a scene,” Sandrew continued. “There is a lot
of neuroscience in it, extending even to
creating deep reflections in people’s eyes.
It’s a subliminal thing, but our process creates
a more lifelike 3D visual impact.”
I witnessed the results when I was ushered
into the state-of-the-art 3D screening
room at Legend3D where Sandrew had his
projectionist run a four-minute clip from their 2D-to-3D conversion of Paramount’s
“Top Gun” and what I saw was spectacular.
Originally created to be shown at last
year’s IBC convention in Amsterdam, I
viewed the opening sequence of the first
reel where F-14A Tomcats flown by “Maverick”
(Tom Cruise) and “Goose” (Anthony
Edwards) intercept some invading MiGs.
The effect of the added Z-space was awesome
and when this turbo charged sequence
is shown on a full-sized 3D screen
accompanied by blasting theatrical sound,
this new look at “Top Gun” is going to blow
3D fans away.
|Barry Sandrew, Ph.D., Legend3D founder
The real surprise of the afternoon was
seeing what Legend3D had done to film comedian
Harold Lloyd’s famous scene from his 1923 comedy “Safety Last” in which
the silent stunt comic finds himself hanging
off a clock face high above a busy city
street. Sandrew’s team had colorized it and
converted the 2D footage to 3D for exhibition
at a meeting of the International 3D
I really hope that when “Top Gun” hits
the big screen in 3D later this year, that
sequence from “Safety Last” will be part of
the pre-show. A colorized and dimensionalized
movie from the silent era! What a wonderful
modern age we live in.
Jay Ankeney is a freelance editor and
post-production consultant in Los Angeles.
Write him at [email protected]