James Cameron Calls on Bolder Use of 3D by All Filmmakers

James Cameron

Helmer addresses 3D Creative Summit in London

James Cameron called on his fellow filmmakers to be bolder in their use of format on day two of the international 3D Creative Summit in London. The “Avatar” director was the two-day event’s biggest draw taking part via an exclusive pre-recorded interview to talk about his upcoming 3D docu “Deepsea Challenge” and the current state of the format.

“The best work has been done by confident filmmakers like Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuaron,” Cameron said. “They are confident so they didn’t worry about asking questions, and there are no dumb questions. Ask questions on day one and two and go nuts on day three.”

In the session preceding Cameron, Steve Schklair, CEO of 3ality and 3D producer on Russian Imax hit “Stalingrad,” noted that helmers were starting to make better use of 3D’s capabilities. “One of the changes I’m seeing is depth budgets getting bigger,” Schklair said. “I’m happy we’re seeing more depth now than we were.”

Cameron called on more filmmakers to follow suit. “Some filmmakers are too conservative. I think I was maybe even too conservative on ‘Avatar.’ I’m going to go deeper on the ‘Avatar’ sequels.”

The helmer also insisted summer blockbusters weren’t necessarily the natural domain for 3D. “Spectacle is spectacle whether it’s 2D or 3D. For drama, the 3D effect can be electrifying. Intimate scenes really pop, they’re more powerful.”

A filmmaker embracing 3D is Wim Wenders, currently in post on drama “Everything Will Be Fine,” following 3D projects including docu “Pina” and skein “Cathedrals of Culture.” “There are no vfx,” Wenders’ director of stereoscopy Josephine DeRobe told summit delegates of the new film, which stars James Franco. “The 3D is used to get inside the central character and his emotions.”

Schklair insisted cost was no barrier. “You do not need a big Hollywood budget to shoot in stereo. Any independent movie can do it.” He referred back to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who appeared on day one of the summit, and said it only cost €1.5 million ($2 million) more to shoot Jeunet’s “The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet” in native stereo.

Meanwhile the debate about shooting native 3D vs. post conversion raged on. Prime Focus’ Matthew Bristowe felt “Gravity” would silence conversion’s critics. “ ‘Gravity’ is here to bury all those criticisms about conversion and move forward.” He joked about the infamous conversion of 2010’s “Clash of the Titans” but argued those days were long gone. “There has been an evolution, both technical and creative, over those four years.”

Despite Bristowe’s hopes Cameron, Schklair and others remained critical of films entirely converted to 3D without pre-planning for the format.

“When studios force a conversion onto a completed film the shots aren’t composed for 3D and it doesn’t feel right,” said Cameron. “The value added isn’t worth the ticket.”

Schklair insisted that rather than burying criticisms about conversion “Gravity” showed the way forward, using a combination of native stereo and conversion. “Creatively entire films being converted doesn’t work and will destroy 3D. I believe in a hybrid model. Native is not even half the cost of conversion but certain things are harder to do native such as aerial or under-water shots. A hybrid approach still achieves the creative results of a native 3D shoot.”

He argued planning for 3D is vital, as is 3D playback on set. “On set creative decisions are made based on watching the footage in 3D. It provides the ability for all departments to adjust.”

To achieve this synchronicity Cameron insisted filmmakers need to stop thinking about 3D as a separate element. “We need to organically integrate stereo with all the other aspects of production design and cinematography.”

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  1. Conversion is a tool – S3D is not a tool (in a film making palatte), contrary to what some DPs/Directors think.

    Cameron/Schklair are right on all counts.
    One thing to keep in mind before “conversion” evangelists proclaim they’ve now “owned” 3D is this:
    Most modern movies either have CG rendered stereo, or green screen composites; layers.

    These don’t qualify as “conversions”. The artifacts and loss of immersion Cameron/Schklair refer to comes from shooting Stereo-blind (a term i’ve coined) on set, and then “extruding” the depth channel in post – This is where the harm gets done, as artefacts of a generation of 2D thinking in cinematography and scene composition show through.

    I always say – Show me a good 2D to 3D conversion and I’ll show you a DP who’s tolerant of lens distortions and other aberrations.

  2. JK says:

    Let’s put the brakes on 3D movies. In the theater, 3D is just a gimmick. Why do you need 3D in the first place? It’s depth perception that aids real world interaction. There’s no interaction in the theater. You aren’t moving through a 3D environment, you are planted in a fixed position. 3D is more suited to gaming and related virtual reality applications. Even Avatar is more watchable in 2D than 3D. In the theater, it remains a gimmick to drive sales, and one that is overused and abused today. 3D also limits the diversity of choices for movie goers by unnecessarily taking up additional screens at theaters.

  3. Tom Koester says:

    Cameron is right. The need for more KINDS of 3D is essential. In the 50’s 3D wave, they made all kinds of movies in 3D (Westerns, Dramas, Musicals, Suspense, Horror, Sci Fi Monster films etc.) not just those usually lousy tent pole extravaganzas that are made for … who knows who.
    And they did it all with NO SURCHARGE, except for 25 cents for the glasses – if you brought your own you didn’t have to pay that. There is no surcharge for Dolby sound, THX audio, etc. Why have one for 3D? It is pure greed! Did it cost more to convert to 3D from already existing digital projection than it did to convert to Dolby or THX sound systems in the film projection era? I seriously doubt it! The first theater to run 3D with no surcharge (or perhaps $1) will see lines around the block!

  4. James, I hope that your vision will materialised! You’re simply great!

  5. Dave Gregory says:

    Indeed, I agree with Misters Cameron and Schklair 100%.

    But what they are saying is nothing new. It’s what those of us (Stereorgraphers who have been shooting in S-3D for over 20 years) have been saying for a long time now (as opposed to the nouveau “me to” parroters of a certain S-3D “school” from a few years back who confine their parallax to limits written by a Euro satcaster’s lawyers).

    Shooting native has always been more cost-effective–as long as you know what you’re doing and your director, stereographer & cinematographer work-out their approach before setting foot on the set on Day 1.

    Conversion is a great tool to use when you need it, and ther are going to be shots where you will need it. But designing the film for S-3D in preproduction is necessary–whether shooting native or shooting flat (for planned conversion).

    Needless to say, if we don’t start delivering more S-3D bang for the ticket-buyer’s buck, the audience will wonder what the devil they’re paying extra for. And that extra shouldn’t be more than two or three bucks–not a greed gouge–because, in case you haven’t heard, the economic recovery for the working class (in North America, at least) hasn’t really happened.

  6. Jesse Skeen says:

    I agree with everything said, but it would also be nice if he could get the greedy studios and theaters to STOP CHARGING EXTRA for 3D!

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