John Knoll Talks Star Wars 3-D
After the recent announcement that the Star Wars saga was going to be converted to 3-D, beginning in chronological order with The Phantom Menace (set for a 2012 theatrical release), I caught up with John Knoll, Industrial Light & Magic's famed visual effects supervisor, who is spearheading the project. He provides a sneak peek of what we might expect in 3-D from the Death Star trench run to the Tatooine Podrace.
Bill Desowitz: So what are your plans for 3-D stereoscopic conversion?
John Knoll: We're mostly going to be working with outside vendors. But the big difference is I'm driving the look of this and going to hold the vendors to very high standards. I've been pretty vocal and my feelings for stereo and stereo conversion. I feel like some of the previous efforts that we've seen were victims of a too rushed production schedule and a too low budget, and maybe not the best aesthetics applied. I feel like the tools can be used to generate good results; otherwise, we wouldn't be doing this. You can't rush it and it's an iterative process, and if you've got a gun to your head and you've got eight weeks to convert a 2,000-shot show, it's not possible to maintain the level of quality control that you need.
BD: And you can only work with what you've got for live action.
JK: Right. I've been very vocal with my opinion that if you're originating new material, if you're in production right now, making something for stereo exhibition, then you should be shooting it in stereo if it's live action, or if it's a computer-animated film you should be rendering it in stereo. But it's a different story if you've got good reasons why you want to convert a library title. So, if you want to explore what stereo can do for you, conversion is the only option. But when stereo's done right, it's not just throwing objects at the camera every few seconds; it's immersive. I think Avatar did a really good of transporting you to an exotic alien place where the stereo is mostly used to give you this powerful sense of presence. And so if you look at the Star Wars world, there are so many interesting, exotic places to go and I think that the immersive nature of stereo exhibition has a lot of appeal. The stuff I've seen to date is pretty cool.
BD: So what is the status of converting Phantom Menace?
JK: We've been thoroughly evaluating the resources out there and giving them the feedback that they need to hear to get the quality where we expect it to be.
JK: I don't think we're allowed to.
BD: Or how many companies?
JK: I'm not allowed to do that either.
BD: Tell me about your role.