'Star Wars' creator George Lucas says 3D film-making will eventually take over at the cinema in the way colour replaced black and white.
Lucas and fellow technology pioneers James Cameron, the maker of 'Avatar', and DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg pointed out that digital film-making was only in its infancy but would bring vast improvements to how movies were made and seen.
Digital technology in general was revolutionising film-making the way sound did in the 1920s, Lucas said. The new digital 3D craze had hits and misses, but should one day become the big-screen standard over 2D presentation, he added.
"So now when you're watching a movie and it's not in 3D, it's like watching in black and white," he told cinema owners at their CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas.
"It's a better way of looking at a film. ... I totally believe now that 3D will completely take over just like colour did."
Lucas spoke at a digital-film panel alongside Cameron and Katzenberg. The hour-long discussion touched on new film-making tools, enhancements to cinema sound, and how badly presented 3D movies can sour audiences on digital 3D films in general.
Such bad 3D experiences have generally resulted when studios took films shot in only two dimensions and made hasty conversions to give them the illusion of depth so they could charge the extra few dollars that 3D tickets cost.
"You disappoint our audiences once, OK, great, we fooled them. Do it twice, shame on us," said Katzenberg, who decided years ago that all DreamWorks Animation films such as last year's 'How To Train Your Dragon' and this summer's 'Kung Fu Panda 2', would be in 3D.
Cameron, who shot 'Avatar' in 3D and plans to make its two sequels that way, is converting his blockbuster 'Titanic' to 3D for release next year. Lucas is doing the same with all six of his 'Star Wars' films.
Done properly, 2D movies converted to 3D can look fantastic, Cameron and Lucas said.
Lucas drew hearty applause several times from cinema bosses when he told them that home systems or portable video devices would never replace the moviehouse as the best place to see films.
"We have our third generation now of kids who are under 12 years old who have never seen 'Star Wars' on the big screen," Lucas said. "And I am betting a lot of people will go see a movie that they have seen on television a million times and they have the video at home, and they will go and see it because they want to see it in the theatre in a social experience."
Cameron waited for years to make 'Avatar' until digital technology had caught up to the ideas in his head for the sci-fi epic about a struggle between greedy humans and noble aliens on a distant world.
Now that the tools are there, filmmakers are confined only by their imaginations, Cameron said.
"We're really at a point where if we can imagine it, we can create it," Cameron said. "There are no limitations now."