Cameron camera rises to new depths

Initiatives open new 3-D opportunities

They were practically home movies, but stunning ones, high-definition, 3-D digital video, made with a new camera, shot miles underwater, of the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck along with billowing geothermal vents teeming with life.

Consider it Jim Cameron’s version of “What I Did for Summer Vacation.”

The surreal images are also a key part of Cameron’s plan to goose the somnolent large-format exhibition market with 3-D, high-def features using new technologies and newly converted “mini-Imax” theaters owned by his backer.

The screenings, including parts of the upcoming “Ghosts of the Abyss” doc, were highlights of Digital Synthesis, a spinoff of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Held Thursday through Saturday at the Bacara Resort near Santa Barbara, the conference brought together tech execs from many studios, networks and post-production houses, electronics manufacturers, doc and large-format filmmakers.

Walden Media financed

Cameron’s work is financed by Walden Media, a sister of exhib giant Regal Cinemas, which is converting as many as 150 screens to digital projection for “Ghosts.” The result, Cameron said, is “mini-Imax theaters for about a tenth the cost.”

It’s part of a broader set of initiatives by Cameron, who collaborated with Vince Pace to develop a lightweight digital 3-D camera. The 22-pound Reality Camera System brackets two Sony high-def cameras with slightly smaller lenses set the same distance apart as human eyes.

To reduce eyestrain so viewers could comfortably watch longer 3-D projects, Cameron used Quantel’s iQ post-production system to tweak images and cut ghosting. Together, the initiatives should open up new 3-D opportunities.

‘Intermediate format’

“It’s not Imax, but it’s a very, very good process,” Cameron said. “We’re kind of launching an intermediate format.”

A conference panel of large-format filmmakers said Cameron’s work is vital to a still-struggling market. Though about 50 commercially oriented Imax theaters have been built in recent years, large format remains too small as a major business model.

“If you want a film to be successful, you’ve got to get it in front of a larger audience than is possible with large format now,” Cinevest prexy and CEO Andrew Gellis said.

Large-format filmmakers have to be more innovative in seeking out audiences and do more marketing, said Keith Melton of Infinity Filmworks. That’s only possible with more screens and their larger potential auds.

That’s where Cameron’s work comes in, they said. And there are other new approaches that also have promise. “Ring of Fire” creator Mal Wolfe of Lobo Media Prods. is using a new kind of 3-D on his most recent project that also can be watched in 2-D without glasses or ghosting.

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