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Katzenberg Tones Down Attack on 3D Conversion in NAB Speech

However, “If you’re asking people to pay a premium price, you better deliver,” he says

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg toned down his verbal jihad against quickie 3D conversions Wednesday – but he’s still insisting content suppliers need to give audiences a premium product if they’re going to attach a premium pricetag to it.

Appearing at a hastily added session at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Katzenberg — without mentioning any specific movies – said movies not designed for 3D, but quickly converted, are “not what’s really capturing the imagination” of consumers right now. Last week, Katzenberg sparked a big debate over 3D when, talking to Variety, he called Warner Bros.’ 3D effort on “Clash of the Titans” a “cheeseball“ product.

Despite being given the chance by one audience member, Katzenberg (pictured above at January’s Consumer Electronics Show) held his fire this time, refusing to directly slam that movie, or any other. But he did make it clear that studios shouldn’t con folks who shell out bigger bucks to watch a film in 3D.

“If you’re asking people to pay a premium price, you better deliver,” Katzenberg said.

When TheWrap used the public Q&A session to ask Katzenberg about why consumers seem to be ignoring critcs’ advice and paying to see “Clash” in 3D, he said moviegoers are simply in sampling mode.

“People are excited about what we can do,” he said.

His hope, however, is that studios choose to invest the resources to get 3D right.

“My hope is that we will all take the high road (because) we will all be rewarded for it,” he said. “I hope people keep their ambitions high.”

Katzenberg also made it clear that he’s not at all opposed to converting movies made in 2D to 3D. But it has to be done the right way, which means adding in dimensionality and involving the original filmmakers in the conversion process.

DreamWorks already is working to convert its non-3D “Shrek” films to 3D. And he noted that George Lucas and James Cameron are converting their respective opuses, “Star Wars” and “Titanic.”

“I’ve seen a test of (‘Titanic’) and it’s spectacular,” he said. Lucas and Cameron aren’t going to do anything to harm their original works, he said – but noted that to do 3D conversion of library product correctly can take up to 18 months and cost upwards of $20 million.

“Not everyone is going to have the resources to do it right,” he said.

Katzenberg also said there’s nothing wrong with movies shot in 2D but designed with 3D in mind, like Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

The exec is also a proponent of 3D TV, particularly when it comes to product released via DVD. He also thinks certain TV events, particularly sports, will prove to be popular in the format.

“Sports and gaming are going to be the earlier drivers in the home… . Curling works well,” he said. “Football and basketball, not so good.”

He also said he was impressed with Comcast’s recent 3D experiment with golf’s Masters tournament. The key, he said, is giving consumers sets where it’s easy to switch between 2D and 3D.

And while not everyone’s convinced 3D TV quality is good enough, Katzenberg said it’s not as big an issue as with the movies. “You can turn 3D on or off (on TV). You can’t do that when you’ve paid a 50 percent premium at a theater,” he said.

Katzenberg predicted consumers will be able to watch 3D TV at home without glasses by the end of the decade. “The rate of change and the quality of (3D) tools … keeps going like this,” he said, pointing upward.

Katzenberg also noted that some moviegoers won’t be able to enjoy 3D because of vision quirks that can make them sick. He even admitted that he’s “sensitive” to “highly active” 3D.

Animators at DreamWorks, he said, use him as a test to see if a scene is too busy for 3D.

“I’m what they call the hurl-meter,” he quipped.