"Star Wars" creator George Lucas predicts 3-D filmmaking eventually will take over at the movies the way color replaced black and white.
But Mr. Lucas and fellow technology pioneers James Cameron, the maker of "Avatar," and DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg said that digital filmmaking is only in its infancy and will bring vast improvements to how movies are made and seen.
Digital technology in general is revolutionizing filmmaking the way sound did in the 1920s, Mr. Lucas said. The new digital 3-D craze has had hits and misses but should one day become the big-screen standard over 2-D presentation, he said.
"So now when you're watching a movie and it's not in 3-D, it's like watching in black and white," Mr. Lucas told a crowd of theater owners Wednesday at their CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. "It's a better way of looking at a film. … I totally believe now that 3-D will completely take over just like color did."
Mr. Lucas spoke at a digital-film panel alongside Mr. Cameron and Mr. Katzenberg. The hour-long discussion touched on new filmmaking tools, enhancements to theater sound, and how badly presented 3-D movies can sour audiences on digital 3-D films in general.
Such bad 3-D experiences generally have resulted when studios took movies shot in only two dimensions and did hasty conversions to give them the illusion of depth so they could charge the extra few dollars that 3-D tickets cost.
"You disappoint our audiences once, OK, great we fooled them. Do it twice, shame on us," said Mr. Katzenberg, who decided years ago that all DreamWorks Animation movies, such as last year's "How to Train Your Dragon" and this summer's "Kung Fu Panda 2," would be in 3-D.
Mr. Cameron, who shot "Avatar" in 3-D and plans to do its two sequels that way also, is converting his blockbuster "Titanic" to 3-D for release next year. Mr. Lucas is doing the same with all six of his "Star Wars" films.
Done properly, 2-D movies converted to 3-D can look fantastic, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Lucas said.
Mr. Lucas drew hearty applause several times from theater owners when he told them that home systems or portable video devices will never replace the movie house 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," Mr. 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 theater in a social experience."
Mr. 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, Mr. Cameron said.
"We're really at a point where if we can imagine it, we can create it," he said. "There are no limitations now."