The Real Story Behind WB's Decision to Drop Harry Potter's 3D
Warner Brothers made a big surprising announcement late last week that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which was one of their big tentpole 3D releases, was not going to be released in 3D at all. They in effect "canceled" the 3D release of the highly anticipated seventh movie, claiming only that "we were unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality." Subsequently, haters of 3D everywhere rejoiced as this was the first time any major studio has dropped the 3D this close to a release. But there's more to it as Variety (via SlashFilm) has published an article looking at what exactly happened.
Apparently there were multiple, major problems that just started to stack up as the months went by, and the execs at Warner Bros were faced with a tough decision. They needed to choose between releasing the film in 3D in select theaters, changing the release date or canceling the 3D release entirely, which they went for in the end, but they weren't going to still just release it in 3D no matter what. The reason? They learned their lesson from Clash of the Titans. Variety says: "Warner learned from the experience, and execs decided they didn't want to take a risk with Harry Potter, one of the studio's crown jewels." This is why I consider WB to be one of the smartest studios in Hollywood and this is proof that they know what they're doing. But how did it get to this point to begin with? Let's take a closer look at what happened with Deathly Hallows.
The troubles with Harry Potter's 3D started with IMAX, who was responsible for "subcontracting to other conversion vendors, tracking and quality control," as they were also behind the 12 minutes of 3D a few films back. But they weren't given the greenlight to begin until August, which was not enough time to convert it without looking terrible. Their attempt anyway began to fall behind schedule because director David Yates didn't lock the final cut until recently, with visual effects still being finished as well. And they can't convert until the effects are done. There aren't many 3D conversion companies out there yet, so when WB put out "emergency" calls to try and hire companies to work on it, they "couldn't find enough takers to catch up."
That was only just the beginning. WB was still struggling to figure out a solution and started making some desperate decisions. One of them involved pulling visual effects producer Randy Starr from the Hawaii set of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (which is why that movie got pulled from the 2011 release schedule as well) to help with Deathly Hallows. Additionally, there has been some internal struggle at Warner Bros over 3D and the conversion process. There are companies created specifically for 3D conversion, but the job has been moving "from the post-production department to the visual effects department," and that's causing more troubles and internal struggles as well, as Variety goes on to explain in further detail.
"The industry is awakening to the fact that the 3D conversion business is in its infancy and is far less robust than the visual effects business," Variety says. And in one of the best statements I've read, they add that it, "reflects a growing realization, at Warner and at other studios, that existing processes for overseeing 3D aren't reliable." We all knew this, so why did it take them so long to figure it out? The problem with 3D is that, in comparison to the visual effects industry, there aren't a lot of companies that can do it well, so they can't call upon the hundreds of VFX houses to convert when they're in desperate need of making a release date. "There simply isn't a pipeline wide enough to do large amounts of quality 3D conversion quickly."
So what's the moral of the story? Well, any 3D haters would say just don't try and convert so many movies that don't need to be converted. Others would say that movies just need more time and money to actually get a proper conversion, which is something that I don't think any movie studio has realized yet. Plus, they don't really have much extra time, as they usually set release dates very close to when the movie's final cut will be locked, and that's when they're supposed to start converting. My suggestion is along the line of the 3D haters - just give up on 3D unless it's extremely necessary. And for the Harry Potter franchise, it may be necessary.
For those who do want to see Harry Potter in 3D, there may be some good news. As there are still 9 months until Part 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gets released next summer on July 15th, 2011, WB is still planning to release that one in converted 3D. Variety confirms: "Warner's focus now shifts to converting Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which the studio said will go out in 2D and 3D, as previously announced." There's also a rumor that they may try and finish converting Part 1 over these next 9 months and release that briefly before the second movie, which is a smart move, but we'll have to wait and see. Reflecting upon all of this, I think Warner Bros made some of smartest decisions of any studio in Hollywood and I applaud them for that.