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Prime Focus Completes 3D Conversion for 'The Wizard of Oz'

Prime Focus World was entrusted by Warner Bros. as the sole conversion partner for the 75th anniversary celebration of The Wizard of Oz, rereleased in IMAX 3D beginning September 20.


As part of the 75th anniversary celebration of The Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros. is rereleasing an IMAX 3D version of the film, allowing audiences to experience the beloved classic in a new way. The Wizard of Oz will get a one-week stint in 3D/IMAX theaters around the U.S. beginning September 20, with a limited international release to follow. The latest home video anniversary edition – which includes the Blu-ray 3D version – will be released October 1.

Prime Focus World was entrusted by Warner Bros. as the sole conversion partner for the film, beginning with receipt of the restored and digitally re-mastered reels of the film. Warner Bros. went all the way back to the film’s original Technicolor camera negative, stored for many years at the George Eastman House, and performed a full photo-chemical restoration before scanning the negative at 4K and digitally restoring the picture. The film had never before been seen at such a high resolution.

Approximately 1,300 staff worked on the conversion of The Wizard of Oz across PFW’s Los Angeles and Mumbai studios, and the production ran from early look development tests beginning in November 2011 through to final delivery in January 2013.

Working with Warner Bros. supervisors, PFW made the decision to “break the walls” of the stage-set backgrounds, selectively adding depth to some of the painted backdrops to further the illusion of the environments they were depicting -- including the yellow brick road, which now appears to continue to stretch away from the viewer even though it is just painted scenery.

PFW also used depth to creative effect on some of the characters. For example, the Wicked Witch of the West’s nose was extruded and the sculpting of her face was distorted slightly in 3D, and her hat and fingers were slightly exaggerated – subtle depth cues that make her appear even scarier on-screen. Similarly, PFW used conversion techniques to make the Munchkins appear smaller in relation to the other characters and objects in the scene.

There was one scene in particular that was earmarked from the start of the project as deserving special attention in the 3D conversion – Dorothy’s first steps into Oz. We had created a fair amount of depth for the sepia scenes leading up to this moment, but we used the stepping through the door into Oz as an opportunity to significantly open up the depth. As Dorothy steps through her front door, the world of Oz literally opens up before her, in glorious Technicolor with a swelling musical score and with fantastic 3D depth to the scene.

“We have an acute awareness of this film’s position and importance in American cinema history, and we have been hugely sensitive to the original material,” commented PFW Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director Merzin Tavaria. “This was a very prestigious project for Prime Focus World to work on, and to have the trust of Warner Bros. with perhaps the most precious film in their library is humbling. With an unshakeable belief in the quality of the work that we produce, Prime Focus World has produced a superlative conversion of a very important film.”

PFW also recently completed the 3D conversion for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, due in theaters October 4.

Source: Prime Focus World

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.