What’s the best use for post-converted 3D? If you’re James Cameron, the answer is obvious: it should be applied to bring established classic films into the 21st century. The director is planning a 3D conversion of his mega-hit Titanic to be released in 2012, on the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Asked about the conversion he has a few things to say, and suggested that another one of his films could get the 3D treatment.

The New York Times talked to the director, and let’s get one statement out of the way first:

I think that’s the true and correct use of the conversion technology, is for movies that are already done and are already beloved films. I want to do it with “Titanic,” maybe I’ll go back to “T2,” I don’t know.

The bold emphasis there is mine. I think the idea of a 3D T2 first came up early this year, but talk has subsided in the wake of other 3D conversations. There’s already the short theme park attraction T-2 3D: Battle Across Time to pave the way for T2 3D, but I’m sure there will be a lot of argument about the potential of a converted Terminator 2.

As you might guess if you’ve been following along, I’m almost totally disinterested, but that’s in part because I have no particular love for the film. It was a landmark in Mr. Cameron’s career and the development of computer-generated effects, but watching the Terminator be taught right and wrong by Edward Furlong isn’t something I get a hankering to watch over again. And yet the film’s big chase scene is a killer — a hell of a piece of action filmmaking — and converted well, it could be pretty impressive in 3D.

And does that point to the real future for these post-converted hit films? You’ve got an established movie, but the 3D conversion turns it into a piece of event viewing. After seeing that once, most of the audience goes back to the 2D version to watch at home. That’s how I see myself interacting with these conversions, but audiences may be more dedicated to 3D. Especially those that grow up watching 3D films.

Here’s how James Cameron describes the early process of converting Titanic:

We’re in the early stages of that process. We’ve been moving very slowly to make sure that we do it right, and we’ve basically gone to every single vendor who does 3-D conversion, that’s a credible vendor, and there were seven that we have received tests from. We’ve analyzed the tests, in a couple of cases we sent them back and told them to remake parts of it, because it was unacceptable, and now we’re baking off the different vendors against each other and we’re going to choose the top two or three vendors and we’re going to split the show up between them. That’s our game plan. So we maximize the quality. Everybody’s busy now because there’s a lot of conversion work.

The interview also references efforts by Warner Bros. to post-convert films like Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, with Mr. Cameron essentially calling WB out for poor planning and shortsighted, rushed conversions. So I’d expect to see that he’s got a plan like this laid out for Titanic. The question is: will it look good, and substantially better than the poor conversions we’ve seen so far? If nothing else, we know that Mr. Cameron has a high bar for visual quality, so it’s reasonable to expect the difference between Clash of the Titans and Titanic 3D will be striking in terms of depth and clarity.

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