“You never know when you start on a film what the 3D opportunities are going to be,” said Ned Price, Chief Preservation Officer, Warner Bros. Technical Operations.
With The Wizard of Oz, you try to identify shapes and facial expressions, said Price. For example, Dorothy’s dress has detail and definition. The computer tries to catch nuances in her dress but you still need to go shot by shot to get it done properly, he said.
“You put the shots together, next to each other, and then you’re going to change them because of the interactions of the shots make the image look different,” said Price. “You have to keep revisiting the image once it is rendered out and define it.”
Price said he loved the Witched Witch and she was one of the best character for 3D conversion. The way the character was designed “really lends itself really nicely to 3D,” he said, the way the black hat and pointed chin and fingers are very angular.
It took a year and a half to remaster and convert The Wizard of Oz, twice as long as a new release. Price said when he first heard of the project, he was worried about the film’s grain but was surprised how it helped offset the 3D effect. The early part of the movie in black and white was originally not going to be in 3D but it was too long to wait for the color part of the movie. Ironically, the black and white scenes worked very well in 3D, including the tornado effects and the door flying off the porch.
Ultra Resolution was developed at Warner Bros. and used to convert the movie, resulting in unprecedented sharpness and clarity, said George Feltenstein, SVP, Theatrical Catalog Marketing, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution. Using a very high resolution (8k) scan of the original Technicolor camera negative, the 2D image was transformed with a depth-map of each frame to construct 3D images. Then with the use of a rotoscope, the process was refined with viewer distances and fully layered objects. Feltenstein said The Wizard of Oz is a special effects film that is tailor made for 3D.
“I went from being a skeptical to being a praiser,” said Feltenstein. There was some trepidation in taking what is considered a national treasure and turning it into a 3D movie. Could we do it justice, he wondered, but “the results speak for themselves.” It took many layers of conversion process but not having the pressure of a deadline was a big help, he said.
The early testing for the 3D format did not do the film justice at the time, said Price. “As 3D got better, this project became more doable.” The tools for 3D have gotten so much better in the past five years, he added. The Wizard of Oz is now the oldest film to be converted into 3D and IMAX 3D.
Lorne Orleans, SVP, Film Production, IMAX Entertainment, said most people have only seen the movie on a television screen, usually a small screen. But The Wizard of Oz was designed for the big screen so this is a great opportunity for different generations to see the movie as it was meant to be, he said.
Orleans was impressed with the craftsmanship for the movie done in 1938. And the new technology really brings out the details on the screen: the freckles on Dorothy’s face and the texture of the Scarecrow’s burlap in his face, he said. One of his favorite scenes is when Dorothy meets the Tin Man for the first time. The depth in the scene is phenomenal, including the trees in the background. Orleans said you don’t care if the trees look like rubber trees, it’s part of the charm. He loves the details on the Tin Man’s costumes, including the rubber gloves. “That whole scene, I really, really love,” he said.
Between the digital artists and the multiple tools they use, Orleans said they were able to do a new version of The Wizard of Oz that is faithful to the original vision while bringing the classic into a new era. One of the technical issues that they had to deal with was the dirt in the black and white scenes. “It was hard to distinguish sometimes between grain and dirt flying around,” he said.
Multiple soundstages were used in filming the movie. Orleans said you can now see all the details and the scale of the sets. The 3D version allows the audience to feel as if they really are on the yellow brick road. “You want an IMAX release that’s going to transport you,” he said.
And one of the best places to see the new version of The Wizard of Oz is in the renovated TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. “We’re absolutely thrilled to host the premiere of The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D,” said Alwyn Hight Kushner, President and COO of the TCL Chinese Theatre. At 932 seats and a screen 94 feet wide and 46 feet tall, it is the largest IMAX theaters in the world. The historical elements have been preserved, including the iconic ceiling and carpeting. The goal was “to make it a movie watching experience unparallel in the world,” she said.
A new state of the art system allows acoustics to remain as precise as possible, said Brian J. Bonnick, P. Eng., Chief Technology Officer, IMAX Corporation. The system uses microphones to adjust the sound throughout the theater. It monitors the sound to preserve the quality of the presentation, he said. The IMAX theatre features crystal-clear digital projection and cutting-edge sound technology on a curved screen.
Following the one-week showing of The Wizard of Oz, the TCL Chinese Theater will show Metallica: Through the Never and Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron’s new science-fiction film.
The Wizard of Oz will also be released on home video on October 1st to celebrate its 75th Anniversary. The limited collector’s edition (an Amazon ecxlusive) will feature a new documentary, The Making of The Wizard of Oz as well as exclusive collectible 75th Anniversary memorabilia: a collectible journal, a 52-page hardcover photo book, a map of Oz, three piece enamel pin set, and a ruby slippers sparkle globe. The 2D version of the movie is the same as the 70th Anniversary release. The new home video edition will be released in four different editions: the five-disc set with the Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet versions of the film, the two-disc Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray, a one-disc Blu-ray, and a two-disc DVD.
You can pre-order them here at Amazon.com (just click on the cover art)…
Images: Courtesy of TCL Chinese Theatre, IMAX and Warner Bros.
- Mario Boucher