LAS VEGAS — James Cameron and Vince Pace returned to the NAB Show Monday with some new stories to tell about their work on last month’s record-breaking deep ocean dive and the success of their 3D movies, but they mostly came to reinforce the same message they delivered last year: The future of 3D is television, and the future of television is 3D.
“I’m so tired of talking to filmmakers and studios about why they should be shooting native 3D as opposed to converting, that I’m actually much more interested in talking about broadcast. Because in broadcast there’s no time to convert. You have to shoot native.” Cameron told Variety in an interview before his Monday presentation. “So I’ve sort of stopped proselytizing in Hollywood about native 3D. You either get it or you don’t. You can have ‘Avatar’ and ‘Hugo,’ or you can have ‘Clash of the Titans.’ You guys pick. What do you want to do? So my focus with Vince is on broadcast.”
Cameron-Pace Group is unveiling a new range of 3D gear at the show, designed to fulfill the promise to broadcasters that they’ll be able to shoot 3D with the same camera positions and crews they’re used to using for 2D.
For sports, for example, Cameron said “You can’t be telling people 3D is a better experience and then only give them three camera postions. You have to do everything exactly the same, and only add value. You can’t be taking away with one hand and giving with the other. So Vince and I said ‘look, we’re going to have to knuckle down and figure out technical solutions that allow us to shoot in an absolutely traditional way.’
“But it required a lot of technical development. We’ve dumped a lot of money into R&D over the last year to get over this hump with parity with 2D production.”
Some of that R&D was driven by the need for lightweight, compact 3D cameras that could be used on the outside of the high-tech submersible Cameron used to reach the deepest spot in the Ocean, the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the South Pacific.
Cameron said those compact 3D cameras from CPG are less than a cubic foot in size and about four and a half pounds, small enough to be mounted in a race car or motorcycle.
Undersea cameras built for the Deepsea Challenge expeditions are likely to be used for underwater shooting on “Avatar 2.”
Among the other gear CPG is presenting are a several “5D” (2D plus 3D) cameras and rigs, including a remote and a 20lb handheld, plus workflow tools.
Cameron said their presentation to broadcasters “is basically about allaying all the perceived fears and barriers to entry that people think will be there.”
He argued that broadcasters have been missing an opportunity by limiting 3D to special events like the Masters golf tournament and selected sporting events. He called episodic series in 3D “a natural,” because they don’t involve a lot of visual effects, which drive up the price of 3D on movies.
“Episodic scripted on-hours and that sort of thing, there’s not a lot of visual effect. Take the visual effects out of the equation we can shoot 3D for exactly the same cost as 2D, it’s dead easy. That’s going to be our message here. Hey guys, you’re missing the low-hanging fruit. You’re going around the low-hanging fruit to the harder stuff.”
But when asked about how broadcasters might get 3D series out to the public, since there’s little chance of terrestrial TV going 3D anytime soon, he said “That’s not our problem, that’s their problem. We provide the production solutions. They’re the broadcasters. The technology exists. Comcast is doing it, DirecTV is doing it. We give you the 3D deliverable at the same cost as 2D, that’s the best we can do. We do the hard part. Their part is the easy part.”
While most high-end TVs now on sale are 3D-capable, auds have been slow to use them to view 3D content. Only a handful of channels show 3D content. In the U.S., 3D content is mainly available on 3Net and ESPN3D, though 3D is available by streaming and Sensio is launching a dedicated 3D streaming service.
“I’ve never believed that a 3D channel was the right answer,” Cameron said. “It would be like having a color channel. People select the shows they want to watch based on other factors besides whether it’s in 3D or not. We have to hit a critical mass of enough entertainment in 3D so you do not have to go to a 3D channel, because once you’re past the novelty factor, that’s not how people decide (what to watch).”
Of his recent Deepsea Challenge dives and the docu feature to be made about it by National Geographic, Cameron said it will feature nine dives to various depths, but only one of those is to the full depth of 11,000 meters.
“We were going to dive four more times but we just ran out of time. I had to come back and sell ‘Titanic 3D,'” he said. “It’s true.”
The docu will include Phase I of Deepsea Challenge. “Phase II is TBD, when that takes place and how it’s funded. The Phase I expedition is now complete and we’re in the science and analysis part of it, where they’re going through the samples and images. Which will take them a year to sort out.” He expects the docu to bow before Phase II begins.