Currently a lot of our colleagues are involved with “dimensionalizing” conventional 2D films into being stereoscopic or so called 3D movies. While most of the artists I spoke with tended to mumble something about “colorizing Shirley Temple” all are glad to have the work. I can only imagine how hopeful studio execs are as they anticipate reviving their libraries once again. Rather than produce a film and spend perhaps hundreds of millions in production they plan to recycle the vaults of Hollywood for just a fraction of the cost. From what I was able to observe the process is quite arduous, requires a lot of precision matte cutting and modeling.
Currently costs range from 80,000 dollars to 110,000 dollars per minute depending upon the complexity of the individual shots. So for example a 90 minute film would cost between 7 and 9 million dollars. Obviously this market will be driven by demand but in the short term demand should be high in an attempt to fill both movie screens and the television airways. The price point will drop as more people pursue the market globally and as more automated approaches are developed. I have heard of plans to open a 2000 seat facility in China to pursue this type of work.
Within the idea that the future of visual effects lie in content creation I imagine that films in the public domain will be conscripted into the process. The newly configured footage will provide the owner with a new copyright. This is also true for the studios. If it is decided to dimensionalize a film still under copyright a new copyright will extend for the original owners. It might be a possibility for a team of computer artists to put in some sweat equity on an old film (in the public domain) to establish a new ownership but the time span to complete the work runs into six months or more with dedicated teams.
The following is a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Working as a Visual Effects Artist”. My suggestion is that you read the article and make up your mind based on your own experiences.