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James Cameron sees a 3-D future for film, TV and games

While prepping to film the next two "Avatar" movies, James Cameron has been keeping busy with other 3-D technology.
While prepping to film the next two "Avatar" movies, James Cameron has been keeping busy with other 3-D technology.
  • Cameron: I ultimately think 3-D will dominate and become half of the market
  • The "Avatar" sequels will be shot at a higher frame rate than the first film
  • He said he has more story ideas than he could ever do in a lifetime as a filmmaker
  • 3D Televisions
  • Avatar
  • James Cameron
  • Games

(CNN) -- Anyone who's watched James Cameron's Oscar-winning "Avatar" can see the difference stereoscopic 3-D can make in a big screen event film when it's done correctly.

While prepping to film the next two "Avatar" movies back-to-back, Cameron has been keeping busy on the 3-D technology front with long-time partner Vince Pace. The pair recently won the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award for outstanding 3-D broadcasts at the 32nd annual Sports Emmy Awards for their work on the 2010 U.S. Open Championship on CBS.

The newly formed Cameron Pace Group is focusing on bringing enhanced 3-D sports broadcasts home, while encouraging more 3-D television production within the industry. Just as was the case when Hollywood first switched to high definition filming, those who upgrade to 3-D TVs don't have a lot of quality content to choose from.

That's where Cameron sees 3-D video games from companies like Sony as a key driver to entice early adopters to upgrade those HD TVs to 3-D TVs. In this interview, Cameron talks about the "Avatar" sequels, converting "Titanic" into 3-D for an April 6, 2012, release and why he doesn't own a BlackBerry.

The New York Times recently ran a story saying that Hollywood is worried about declining 3-D movie ticket sales. What do you believe needs to be done to keep 3-D fresh for theater goers?

I think that we're in a phase right now where 3-D theaters are expanding rapidly and the delta between 3-D profits and 2-D profits is diminishing, which is actually completely predictable. I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill.

If 3-D becomes widely adopted, we're going to reach a point, ultimately, of equilibrium where they can't charge a premium price for 3-D. Ultimately, I think you'll be looking at a situation where 3-D dominates and becomes 50% of the market.

It will become the standard in a couple of years. They're actually going to have to offer a discount for you to watch it in 2-D. It's all just natural adjustment, the way I see it.

Will advances in technology allow you to do things with your "Avatar" sequels that you wanted to do with the first film but just weren't able to?

The one thing that I did back away from with the first film -- because we were biting off so many big challenges between the performance capture and the 3-D production and all those sorts of things -- was shooting the picture at a higher frame rate.

I decided I would wait for the second film to do that. I spent a fair bit of money and a lot of time over the last few months on higher frame rates for cinema. A lot of the complaints about 3-D have been about the eye strain from some audience members.

Hollywood has been using 24 frames per second since the 1920s. We've become accustomed to that rate in 2-D. But when you see it in 3-D, it's more distracting. So "Avatar 2" and "3" will definitely be shot at a higher rate. We haven't decided yet if we'll shoot in 48 or 60 frames per second. Peter Jackson, for example, is already shooting The Hobbit films in New Zealand at 48 frames per second.

Can you talk about your green initiative with the MBS Media Campus production facility that will house production of "Avatar 2" and "3"?

In terms of the green side, there was a minor nagging criticism that, "Oh, you guys making 'Avatar' use a lot of electricity with those computers and you're trying to promote a green philosophy."

I live completely green, myself. I generate all my own power from solar and wind and all that. I said, "OK, fine. We'll just do that at our studio." So we're putting in a 216-kilowatt solar powered system on the roof of the studio, which is already a state-of-the-art green facility, and we will be net zero, or less than net zero.

As someone who's paved the way of new technology in your filmmaking and in 3-D, how big a part of your everyday life is technology like tablets, smartphones and other gadgets?

Probably, surprisingly, little. First of all, I don't want to be that accessible to everyone. I see people hunched over their BlackBerrys and phones every day and it amazes me. I won't ever be that person. I'll check e-mail, but that's about it.

What has the process been like turning "Titanic" into a 3-D experience?

I'm deep into the conversion process on "Titanic." I find it frustrating because I'm used to working with native stereoscopic images, where I don't have to question where things are in the frame.

While it's an interesting intellectual problem for a visual artist to say, "Well, I think that this post on that banister is closer to me than the guy standing next to it," I really don't want to have that conversation too much in my life.

I'm going through it because there's no other way to have "Titanic" be released in 3-D. But it's a little bit like going in and painting with oil paints all of the frames of a black-and-white movie being turned into color. It's not a process I would recommend. It's certainly not one that I would ever embrace if I were just starting a movie.

As someone who creates worlds, what opportunities do you see in video games, as a medium, opening up for you?

I think video games and movies are merging, but I think that the same creative talents are starting to flow more evenly back and forth between the mediums. For example, I have a lot of story ideas...a lot more than I could ever do in a lifetime as a filmmaker.

I think it's perfectly valid for a filmmaker to incubate some of their story ideas directly into the game world. If, by the way, at some point you decide you want to license it back to a movie studio to turn it into a movie later, fine. That's just an alternate life cycle for the creation of vision of the world, or a set of characters, or a story.


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