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Legend3D Founder on 3D TVs: ‘It Was Too Much Too Fast’

Watching a movie at home will soon be superior to the movie theater, Barry Sandrew tells TheWrap

Hollywood will unleash 70 movies in 3D next year, the biggest year yet for the format, according to Barry Sandrew, the founder of 3D conversion company Legend 3D. While the number of movies released in 3D dropped 20 percent in 2014, Sandrew rejects any suggestion that 3D has slumped.

“We’re looking at 2015 being the most 3D-heavy year ever,” Sandrew told TheWrap.

We can thank the international market for that, as countries like China build 3D movie theaters at an astounding clip. Hollywood leans on 3D and IMAX to differentiate the experience of watching a movie in a theater from what you can get at home — and charge more for it to boot.

Also read: Christopher Nolan on Why ‘Great Gatsby’ Worked, But 3D Isn’t for Him

Sandrew told TheWrap the home experience will soon be “superior” to the theater, and studios will have to consider releasing their biggest movies everywhere at once.

Will you be able to watch “Transformers 6” at home while others see it in theaters? Possibly.

“Studios now release movies worldwide all at once, and sometimes before here; we thought that would never happen,” Sandrew said.

TheWrap spoke with Sandrew about watching 3D movies at home, why so much 3D is bad and the future of his company.

You guys are a film company, but you want to talk about TV. Why?
Once high-dynamic range and 4K come to fruition in TV it will do what the theaters have always feared. It’s going to create a far superior experience at home relative to the theater. That’s always been the fear of exhibitors. People said color TV would be the end of theaters; obviously it didn’t have an effect. It’s still a huge industry.

But once we have these elements, HDR and 4K, it will be a better experience. This will force exhibitors to go to laser projection.

Also read: 3D Lessons Hollywood Could Learn From ‘Gravity’

What is HDR?
Normally we only see 35 to 46 percent of the full color space. With high dynamic range you get almost 76 percent. It brings TV to the point where it really mimics the way we see; if you’ve seen it, you would feel you can’t do without it. It’s a brighter image.

With these improvements to the home viewing experience, will that lead to a decline in the theater going population?
If we had HDR in 4K, it would be a far superior experience to going to a theater.

Are there 4K TVs that are also HDR?
No, that will take a while to implement.  We’re a few years away. While 4K is very impressive, the mantra right now in the industry is we don’t want more pixels, we want better pixels. When it comes down to it, that will be the future standard.

If you show someone a 4K TV, they won’t appreciate the resolution. You have to have a large TV and you have to sit closer to the TV. That bothers me. If you’ve seen an HDR TV, it doesn’t matter if you’re 15 feet away; it’s instantly a superior experience.

Is there a timetable for the widespread adoption of TVs with these technologies?
It’s happening now, but people don’t realize it. The reason 3D didn’t take off is the consumer electronics industry shoved it down everyone’s throat. It was too much too fast. Now they play down the 3D, but it’s still there. If you want to buy a quality big screen TV, chances are it will be 3D-ready.

So if I got buy a TV, it will come with 3D?
You know it; you’ll have glasses with it. You may not use it, but eventually you will.

When can we watch 3D at home without the glasses?
We’re a long way away from that. That’s something that really irritates me, the confusion the industry has created for the consumers. A lot of consumers aren’t buying 3D TVs because they think glasses-free TV is here or imminent.

Most people are not eager to throw on 3D glasses at home, but if people start watching 3D TVs, what is the benefit to Legend?
The work we are creating will look superior at home and on TV. The studios haven’t been concentrating on TVs yet because there isn’t an installed base. Once its there, the focus will be greater. Hopefully well see TV shows in 3D. We’re also going to be a move to do catalog titles like “Top Gun” and “Little Mermaid.” Those are fantastic conversions, and there are so many titles that would be great in 3D.

Public sentiment seems to have shifted against 3D, but PricewaterhouseCoopers just issued a report saying the market for 3D has stabilized. What do you think will happen?
2015 will be the biggest year yet for 3D movies with 70 movies. We’re looking at 2015 being the most 3D-heavy year ever. If you look at 2013, eight of the ten highest-grossing films were 3D. If you look at the all-time box office, the top seven movies were all released in 3D.

Only if you count the “Titanic” re-release.
Yes, so six. For 2014, the top 9 movies are all 3D. Internationally it’s much hotter than here.

You just opened a new office in Los Angeles to work more closely with filmmakers. How intense is the competition for 3D jobs?
After “Avatar” there were hundreds of companies saying they could do conversion when really they couldn’t. Weekly I get samples from other companies who wanna work with us; frankly, 99 percent of it is embarrassing. It’s worse than bad; it’s embarrassing. People don’t seem to have an idea of what 3D is.

What are the best cases of 3D?
One of my favorite movies was “Top Gun.” It is a special case but it was done after the fact. It was 25, 26 years old; it’s all live action, no visual effects. VFX makes the conversion process easier. The most difficult thing you can do in conversion is have really long shots, dolly shots, where the audience can focus on ever single hair on an actor’s head. “Top Gun” was one of the most difficult movies that has ever been converted.

How many movies are you working on right now?
Three. We just finished “Spider-Man” and worked on “Maleficent.” Right now we have three projects in-house.

Any movies for this summer?
Yes, but I can’t say which.

So you think widespread adoption of new TVs will transform the home viewing experience. That would suggest movie studios erase the distinction between the theater and the home and release movies everywhere at once. What are the chances that actually happens?
We now release movies worldwide all at once, and sometimes before here. We thought that would never happen. We release movies on Blu-ray a few months after as opposed to a long time after. It’s starting to happen.

So “Transformers 6,” day-and-date. You heard it hear first.
That’s right. [Laughs]

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