DWA to Convert Three 'Shrek' Films to 3D

As Dreamworks Animation prepares for the May 21 release of Shrek Forever After, the animation studio is in the process of converting the first three movies in the phenomenally successful franchise to the stereo format for a 3D Blu-ray Disc release. On Wednesday at the NAB convention, DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said: "Our movies exist in digital files to begin with. To go back and rebuild to a quality 3D experience is not inexpensive, but we are about to achieve a pretty high quality result."

For animated films like Shrek, the 3D process involves going back to files and rendering out another eye. The makers of the Shrek films are working in close collaboration with the DWA team that is involved in the stereo process. "I think our product will be used to showcase what 3D in the home can offer in terms of the highest quality possible experience," Katzenberg said of the home entertainment release plan.

The exec expressed optimism about the rate of technical innovation occurring in 3D filmmaking, spending some time discussing live action conversion -- the subject of much scrutiny since the poorly received 3D conversion of Clash of the Titans opened in theaters and prompted industry concerns that bad 3D could threaten the format's rollout.

"We are just beginning to see big capital investments made into the area of post 2D-to-3D conversion. Right now it's at the most rudimentary," he said. "It is going to change very, very quickly. I'm still pretty optimistic that whether it's 12 months or 18 months or 24 months from now, there is going to be a quality product in straight 2D-to-3D conversion."

Pointing out that George Lucas is looking to convert Star Wars and James Cameron, Titanic, he said, "They are not going to do anything to diminish the importance of those films." Katzenberg suggested that the process could cost $20 million per film and 18 months to accomplish. He added that he saw a test for Titanic and said: "It is spectacular. Jim is a perfectionist."

Katzenberg emphasized the importance of the filmmakers' involvement in the process, which is part of the DWA effort. "Directing is the essential element that exists in a premium experience," he said, adding that it is "fantastic news" that Martin Scorsese has announced plans to use the format.

Also in Las Vegas, Katzenberg predicted that in a 10- to 15-year timeframe, there could be glasses-free stereo viewing in movie theaters and on billboards. In the short term, he anticipates seeing glasses free -- or autostereo -- displays for a suite of handheld devices at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show; and in five to seven years, small- and medium-sized autostereo 3D monitors.

By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter