Lucasfilm is continuing with 3D conversions and rereleases of the Star Wars saga and this weekend at Star Wars Celebration VI, the first footage was shown from Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 3D.
I was among those who was not impressed by the conversion of The Phantom Menace. It didn’t include that ugly, off-putting look that cheaply done conversions like Clash of the Titans have, but it also didn’t really impress as 3D – and it was hard not to wonder if it was just an innate limitation when it comes to converting old movies that were never intended to be in 3D.
However, based on what was shown at Celebration, the 3D in Attack of the Clones is a marked improvement. We were shown a long sizzle reel for the film, taking us through the movie via short clips, which showed off the 3D to an admirable extent.
In the opening sequence of the Naboo cruiser arriving on Coruscant, the ship truly seemed to be coming out of the side of the screen. And there was a lot of cool 3D visuals in the footage we saw of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s speeder chase through Coruscant – especially when Anakin leapt from the speeder down towards Zam Wesell, and Anakin himself appeared to be a physically present figure, falling away from the viewer into the distance.
I was also impressed by the waves on Kamino, which looked incredibly lifelike and ready to splash onto the audience in the establishing shots of the water-covered planet.
Some of the scenes from we saw weren’t quite as notable. The Droid Factory bit and the Yoda/Dooku lightsaber battle both looked fine, but unremarkable, from a 3D perspective. Still, overall, the sequences we saw from the 3D version really stood out and seemed like a giant step up from Phantom Menace.
ILM’s Dennis Muren (who worked on all six Star Wars films) and John Knoll (who worked on the Special Editions and the prequels) discussed the conversion process and how meticulous and time-consuming it was – about a year-long in total for each film. It involved going through the entire film and separating the elements and working to make sure the 3D looked correct and gave objects the proper amount of depth. In some cases, the shift in perspective in a scene has led to new digital work having to be done. An example was shown from the end of Attack of the Clones, as the 3D meant we were looking at Palpatine, Bail Organa and the other politicians looking down at the Clone Troopers from a slightly different angle, leaving blank spaces on the background which needed to be filled in, using the original matte paintings and backgrounds.
Since this whole process involves going back into a lot of the digital elements, Knoll admitted, “We might have archived things a bit differently if we knew we were coming back to it,” noting with Phantom Menace, they were dealing with elements from “13, 14 years ago. The backups only last so long. Sometimes the priorities on what you back up change over the time.”
Knoll said the process had been easier on Attack of the Clones than Phantom Menace, because, "The newer the film is the easier it is to go into the archives and recover things.”
That makes a lot of sense and probably accounts for some of the differences in the 3D visuals for the films, and hints at Revenge of the Sith 3D looking great too.
It’s less comforting in regards to the original trilogy, which obviously are much older films and lacking in as many digital elements that can be separated as easily. Still, if anyone can pull it off, it would be ILM.
Discussing why he felt it made sense to convert Star Wars into 3D, Knoll said, “The cool thing about 3D is it’s immersive,” noting it helped make you feel “You are there." He added, “What better universe would you want to have that feeling with than Star Wars?”
No release date has been announced for Attack of the Clones 3D, thought it seems likely it will be around the same time as the February release date The Phantom Menace 3D had this year.
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