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'2012 3D' set to blow audiences' minds

By Zhang Rui  (

09:23, November 13, 2012

Engineers Cui Xiaoyu (L) and Keith Collea talk about the 3D re-creation of "2012" at a preview conference held in Beijing, Nov. 11, 2012. (

The 3D release of 2009 American sci-fi disaster film "2012" is set to stun Chinese audiences as its distributors gave the media a 30-minute taste of 3D in Beijing on Sunday.

As James Cameron's 3D re-release of 1997 "Titanic" grossed 934.03 million yuan (US$149.55 million) during the last half of 2012 and with that became the biggest grossing film on the Chinese mainland so far this year, China Film Group Corporation then asked six Hollywood giants if they could replicate this massive success, sources close with the situation said. Columbia Pictures then proposed to 3D-ize "2012".

"2012" initially grossed a whopping 465 million yuan (US$74.45 million) in China, as top earner on the mainland that year, and its worldwide total box office gross was a staggering US$769.67 million. This year is the very year the film portrayed to coincide with the earth’s doomsday, according to so-called ancient Mayan legend. The 2012 phenomenon sees a series of cataclysmic events unfolding in the lead-up to the end of the world as we know it, according to the theory. For these reasons, China Film Group gave the project its green light.

When the project was announced, both critics and moviegoers were skeptical that it was just another way to bank in on the film’s original success and milk out moviegoers. And there have been quite a number of fake 3D-films, in which the 2D to 3D conversion was done very poorly. But Sunday’s 3D clips of "2012" showed this is definitely not the case here.

The 30-minute footage shown to the media came from scenes of destruction in California and Las Vegas, plus the eruption of a super volcano in Yellowstone National Park. The 3D conversion is shockingly good and absolutely breathtaking. According to the engineers of the film, when director Roland Emmerich shot it, much of the material was initially intended for 3D-release, with the special effect models created in 3D as well.

However, due to the film's release schedule, Emmerich's team did not have the time or technology to produce a 3D version and so the film came onto worldwide screens in 2D.

According to Zhang Miao, distribution director of Columbia Pictures, the "2012" 3D project was started in late April of this year. A team of 460 engineers from Columbia Pictures, Sony 3D Technology Center and China Film Co., Ltd. worked together for months to recreate "2012" in its 3D form frame by frame and remix the film’s sound. The results of recreation have already won high recognition from both directors and film studios, said engineers Cui Xiaoyu and Keith Collea at the preview conference.

"I don't like the phrase '3D conversion', " Cui said during the conference, adding that any good and responsible 3D post production is more than just converting a movie. "I keep saying it is actually a matter of 3D visual recreation. Such a project should be taken on as if you were making an entirely new film," he said.

The film distributors said "2012 3D" features some never before seen disaster footage and has deleted some original dialogues, Keith Collea said. It will also be released in Chinese DMAX version -- a China's home-made IMAX format. But as the 3D special effects are so dramatic to experience, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) may have to re-rate the film and is bound to raise its "PG-13" rating to a "Restricted" one.

China will be the first country to release "2012" in 3D on November 20 and distributors are hoping for positive results, which may help them decide if they will turn more classic Hollywood blockbusters into 3D releases . "2012 3D" will also be screened in other countries later this year or in next year, distributors said.

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