The Story Behind Warner Bros' Failed 3D Plans For 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1'

When the news broke that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 would not be released in 3D because Warner Brothers was "unable to convert the film in its entirety and meet the highest standards of quality" many, if not most people, rejoiced. Some called it the death of 3D films, others praised Warners for its respect shown to the Harry Potter franchise while 3D advocates took it as justification that 3D conversion is still a viable option, if given the proper amount of time. But the missing part of the story was what happened behind the scenes at Warner Brothers to make this decision, especially since it represents a huge financial loss including whatever the studio had already spent to convert the film, not to mention the potential extra box office that would have come in due to higher 3D ticket prices. Read the story of what happened after the jump.Variety has the detailed story of what specifically went on. Apparently it was IMAX, and not Warner Brothers, who was leading the Harry Potter 3D charge. They were "responsible for subcontracting to other conversion vendors, tracking and quality control." Well, the company, who was new to the game, got the contract in May but were not given the okay to start until August. That's strike one. Then, director David Yates didn't lock a cut of the film until quite recently with a huge amount of special effects shots still needing completion. 3D conversion can't be done until shots are complete so the conversion process was falling well behind schedule. Strike two.

With that knowledge, and the November 19 release date looming, Warners and IMAX put out an emergency call to 3D conversion houses – of which there really aren't that many – but couldn't get enough help. Strike three. As a last minute Hail Mary, they called visual effects producer Randy Starr off the set of the Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel to come in and lend a hand but it seemed to be too late. That move represents a fundamental shift in 3D post-production where the responsibility has shifted from standard post-production to visual effects. No one is really sure the best way to go about this  whole 3D thing. It's still in its early stages.

For example, if a film is falling behind schedule with visual effects, there are hundreds of proven visual effects companies out there that can be brought in to lend a hand. It's a problem, but not that big a problem. With 3D conversion, though, there are only a handful of reputable vendors and with so many 3D films in the Hollywood pipeline, they are extremely overworked.

The Harry Potter announcement came out last Friday but, when the day started, the actual decision to release the film in 2D had yet to be made. Up to the very last minute, executives were debating between releasing the film in 3D in select theaters, moving the release date or just canceling the 3D totally. The one thing they were dead set on not doing was releasing the film in 3D no matter what, which they did with Clash of the Titans and got hammered for it.

Still, the Variety piece mentions some of the people who were working on the Part 1 conversion were not let go, leading some to believe that a 3D re-release is still possible. More likely, though, they are just staying on to work on Part 2, which Warners has basically vowed will still be released in 3D. That's certainly possible with plenty more time to come before its July release date and they point to Lucasfilm as a model example. Lucasfilm has allotted a whopping 15-27 months for the conversion of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, which will be released in 2012. That's a much more manageable time frame for a whole new world in visual effects.

While most people hate 3D post conversion, I believe this whole fiasco – expensive as it may be for Warner Brothers – proves that it's a process that can work. The quality of the completed shots must have been high enough for them to say the rest of the film couldn't live up to it. If it's good enough for Warner Brothers, James Cameron and George Lucas, it's good enough for me.

But what about you? It's safe to assume most of you think Warner Brothers made the right decision with their biggest film franchise but what else do you feel this means for the future of 3D?