Cameron keynotes F/X confab

Director Jim Cameron promises that Hollywood will embrace more special effects in feature films, as high-powered computers and software becomes more widely available, easier to use and less costly.

As keynote speaker kicking off the world’s largest computer graphics show, SIGGRAPH, in Anaheim this week, Cameron attempted to bridge the cultural chasm between filmmaking and digital image-making. He challenged the gathering to educate directors about what is possible with these new tools.

“It’s a really exciting time to be a practitioner in the digital arts,” said Cameron, whose recent spate of films have set a standard in computer-generated effects and who is a co-founder of Digital Domain, a new special effects company. “These changes will be so profound that we won’t be able to remember how we functioned before.”

SIGGRAPH, the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, is an international arm of the Assn. for Computing Machinery.

The conference, which is also launching a multimedia expo, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This year’s gathering, running Aug. 1-6, is expected to attract some 35,000 attendees.

Cameron directed such effects groundbreakers as “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “The Abyss.”

Historically, said Cameron, computer-heavy special-effects companies have marketed themselves to the film community as wizards, keeping their technology hidden from the director and others involved in a project.

“They didn’t view directors as partners, but as the moron king,” said Cameron , drawing a laugh and applause, adding with a smile, “Directors normally avoid areas out of their control.”

But with seven of the top 10 grossing films containing effects, Hollywood has been willing to suffer the relationship. This is changing, however, with the advent of cheaper computers, faster software and higher quality images.

As a result, he said, computer artists have a greater opportunity to become a part of the production process.

This is where the chasm can be narrowed.

“People sitting at workstations must teach themselves to be filmmakers,” said the director. “Conversely, filmmakers must think about using these tools.”

The sooner Silicon Valley extends a hand to Hollywood, he noted, “demystifying effects, it’ll let director play in the sandbox.”

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