WASHINGTON (June 14, 2006)–In an industry first, National Geographic is repurposing “Roar: Lions of the Kalahari,” winner of best large-format film at the International Wildlife Film Festival, into the giant screen 3-D film format. The film will be marketed under the title “Lions 3D: Roar of the Kalahari.” The re-versioning marks the first time an entire live-action giant screen film has been digitally converted from the original flat format to 3-D, and represents the first foray for National Geographic into the 3-D giant screen marketplace.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has signed on as the film’s first exhibitor. It will premiere in February 2007 in the Smithsonian’s Johnson IMAX Theater.
“‘Roar: Lions of the Kalahari’ is an awe-inspiring story of power and dominance among lions vying for the same territory in Africa’s brutal Kalahari Desert,” said Lisa Truitt, president of National Geographic Giant Screen Films and Special Projects. “The inherent drama of the film, coupled with the incredible cinematography of renowned filmmaker Tim Liversedge, makes it a perfect candidate for the 3-D format. In 3-D, viewers will get a sense of being right in the middle of a lion pride.”
To achieve the effect, National Geographic is utilizing Santa Monica, Calif.-based Sassoon Film Design, who will take the scanned film negative — approximately 58,000 frames — and separate each object within the frames into layers through a process called rotoscoping. Sassoon will assign each layer a separate left-eye or right-eye spatial offset and an infinity point set to create a realistic stereoscopic image. The frames will be re-recorded back to film, as a separate left eye and right eye for projection, achieving the final three-dimensional effect on screen. RPG, a post-production agent based in Burbank, Calif., will oversee the conversion process and approve the final release prints of the film.
“My mission with ‘Roar’ was to not adhere to the pure strictures of documentary filmmaking. I wanted something bigger and more novelistic that would move my audience emotionally as well as intellectually,” said Liversedge. “‘Lions 3D’ will take these ambitions even further, creating an even bigger experience for the audience.”
“Lions 3D” will carry the audience deep into Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, where a life-and-death struggle unfolds between a real lion king and a fierce, young contender determined to oust him from his throne. The interloper gradually encroaches, until an ultimate battle between the two determines the fate of all. The drama poignantly weaves together the day-to-day life of lions with the suspense of rivalry. The film was made possible by the generous support of the Botswana Ministry of Environment, Wildlife & Tourism.
“We were very impressed by the 3-D conversion test footage we saw from the film,” said Toby Mensforth, director of theaters for Smithsonian Business Ventures. “We already know this is a great movie, and the results of the test alone gave us the confidence we needed to be the first to sign on to exhibit ‘Lions 3D.’ This film is a great example of the kind of exciting experience we try to bring to our viewers at the Smithsonian through our film and exhibit offerings, and we’re very confident of its ability to draw audiences while fulfilling our educational mission.”
“The Smithsonian’s commitment to license and exhibit the film before we’ve even completed production shows the appeal and potential market for this film,” said Truitt. “We’re dedicated to exploring more films using this process and are excited to have ‘Lions 3D’ be our first film utilizing this technology.”
National Geographic expects to complete production on “Lions 3D: Roar of the Kalahari” by December of 2006. “Roar: Lions of the Kalahari” will continue to be shown in its original format in select locations.
“Lions 3D: Roar of the Kalahari” and “Roar: Lions of the Kalahari” are Tim Liversedge productions for National Geographic Television & Film and are distributed by National Geographic Giant Screen Films. Tim Liversedge is the director, executive producer and director of cinematography. Lisa Truitt and Tim Kelly are executive producers. June Liversedge and Jini Durr are producers. Eleanor Grant is the writer. Richard Jones is a cinematographer. Music is composed by James S. Levine. Editors are Lori Petersen Waite and Mark Fletcher.
National Geographic Giant Screen Films is part of National Geographic Ventures (NGV), a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Geographic Society. Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, with a mission to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting conservation of Earth’s cultural and natural resources. Building on its global reputation for remarkable visuals and compelling stories, National Geographic Giant Screen Films produces original 2-D and 3-D productions for the world’s largest screens. National Geographic Giant Screen Films also retains distribution rights to a portfolio of 23 films. More information is available at nationalgeographic.com.
Tim Liversedge Productions is a Botswana-based natural history film production company that has made seventeen films for international television as well as the giant screen film “Roar.”