Much is riding on James Cameron’s return to Titanic.

The painstaking conversion of the director’s 1997 film is moving ahead and until today the general public had not had the chance to see Titanic in 3D. During the Fox panel we were treated to a few scenes from the new version of the film, and though our liveblogging was interrupted by the security team at the O2 arena we’re now able to tell you what we thought of what we saw.

In short it was the most impressive post conversion work we’ve seen, and to put this in context after I had dashed from the Fox panel to interview ILM Digital Artist John Goodson and Visual Effects Supervisor Bill George the question was asked about the 3D Star Wars (they were not working on it and had no updates to offer) their eyes lit up at the new that the Titanic 3D footage had been screened. There are a lot of eyes on this one.

The film is set to be released next year on the 100th anniversary of the disaster, and though a cynical reading will see only James Cameron’s pockets having to be reinforced to take the extra large wallet he’ll need, it is true that there are a lot of people who were too young to enjoy the fourteen year old film in the cinemas. If (when) this film makes another billion or so you can bet that Fox and Lucasfilm will look to Star Wars and perhaps beyond to add a third dimension to their most well known products, though this may mean a 3D Howard the Duck so don’t get too excited.

The first piece of 3D Titanic we saw was of the Southampton shipyard with the crowds waiting to board and there was an instant recognition of the scene and appreciation of the work Cameron’s team had done to add depth to the bustling crowds. In complete contrast to the 3D trailer to The Darkest hour we saw earlier as part of the panel (which looked like a moving Viewmaster parade of someone’s holiday snaps) the layers were subtle and the movement in the busy scenes rendered wonderfully. The moment when Kate Windlet’s Rose steps out of the car and the camera moves down as she raises her hat to reveal her face looked stunning. It could have been made in 3D – that’s how good it was.

Key scenes followed, the meeting of Jack and Rose in First Class with the famous sweeping staircase looming larger than ever, the raucous dancing scene in steerage looked like it wasn’t completely finished with a few too many bodies moving in front of the actors as the dancers swirled round making the 3D effect a little uneven initially. The sighting of the iceberg (which includes the wonderful delivery of “Oiceberg! Roight Ahead!”) looked fine above deck, the darkness making the 3D less obvious but when the message to reverse the ship goes down to the engineering decks it is a whole other story. The giant pistons coming to a halt and then pumping reluctantly backwards made for an incredible sight.

We were also treated, of course, to the scene when Jack takes Rose up to the front of Titanic, holds her arms out and – well you know the rest. Looking over the two leaning over the edge of the ship with the water flowing past far below looked as if it was made for 3D and you can imagine there are many other moments which lend themselves to the extra dimension. We also saw the final plunge of the boat while it is vertical in the water. As this was again at night the effect was dulled slightly but Cameron’s camera makes great use of the scale of the ship and the footage proved two things: first that Titanic is still a spectacle and though it has been parodied and mocked since its release it will enter cinemas again and cast its spell over the audience and secondly that 3D post conversions have now reached a stage when it will convince studios to go back and to tinker with their most valuable films, giving them a shiny new dimension and the perfect excuse to send them packing back to the cinema screens.

After seeing some of Titanic 3D I far less of a problem with this than I thought. Now – tell me that The Wizard of Oz is getting a 3D makeover and it may be a different story. We’ll see…