Prime Focus Brings The Last Emperor into 3D

By Debra Kaufman, Creative COW Magazine

Rumors had buzzed for two years that director Bernardo Bertolucci was interested in converting his masterpiece The Last Emperor to 3D. That became a reality when the 3D version debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. The sensitive job of handling the conversion went to Prime Focus in London, which dedicated hundreds of rotoscope artists, proprietary tools and artistic intention to uphold the intention of the original version. The verdict? Bertolucci called it “beautiful and magical.”

When director Bernardo Bertolucci’s visual masterpiece The Last Emperor debuted in 1987, it was notable for being the first film ever to shoot inside the Forbidden City. Now audiences have a chance to see those sweeping scenes for the first time in 3D. The movie, which was shot by Vittorio Storaro and independently produced by Jeremy Thomas, has been converted to 3D by Prime Focus World in London and Mumbai, with the participation and enthusiastic approval of Bertolucci. Unveiled at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, The Last Emperor — we hope — will have a Blu-Ray/DVD release.

Although numerous new movies are shot in 2D with the intention to convert to 3D in post, a handful of older 2D movies also get the 3D treatment. Whereas a 3D conversion may seem like a natural choice for a popular action/adventure movie, it appears to be less obvious for a dramatic classic, which garnered a Best Cinematography Oscar for Storaro among its nine Academy Awards.

Yet the filmmakers embraced the opportunity to add a dimension to the 65mm film, a way to literally deepen the movie’s many spectacular scenes. The conversion was led by Prime Focus in London, where Matthew Bristowe is Senior VP, Production, View-D and Richard Baker is Creative Director/Senior Stereographer. Prime Focus offers its proprietary View-D 2D-to-3D conversion process, which has been used to convert World War Z, Star Wars Episode 1, Men in Black 3 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

According to Bristowe, Prime Focus was first approached with The Last Emperor project two years ago. “When we watched it again, we realized what a very stunning film it is,” he says. “Every frame, every shot, is full of intention. Everything there needs to be there to tell the story. We felt as a creative team that whatever we do cannot distract from that. There was a huge weight on our shoulders to match the expectations of the original.”

At the time, he notes, critics were quick to pounce on 2D-to-3D converted films. “It was a bold move to make a conversion of a masterpiece,” he says. “But we knew it could be done. It was a matter of gaining trust with Bertolucci and Storaro.” To that end, Prime Focus did 12 test shots. “We did the big iconic sequence of the Emperor’s coronation, when he runs through the yellow curtain and you see the army and the people laid out before him,” says Baker. “We selected medium shots, close-ups, and wide angles and that represented the style of the film as a whole, and they really liked the work.” [more...]

Source: Creative COW

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