James Cameron and Vince Pace at NAB 2011

Avatar's Cameron aims to terminate 3D confusion

Oscar-winning director joins forces with camera pioneer Pace to develop viable technologies and production flows for TV.

Avatar director James Cameron aims to rapidly accelerate and reinvigorate the adoption of 3D for TV as well as film through a new venture with his long-standing technical collaborator Vince Pace.

Launching the Cameron Pace Group during the opening NAB keynote on Monday (April 11), the two men initially concentrated on how their company will develop simpler production workflows where 2D and 3D are not separate disciplines. Rather, they argued, 3D must be rolled out by building as smoothly as possible on the skills that traditional camera operators and other broadcast professionals already have.

“Let them do their jobs the way they do their jobs and let us work with them as technology and services providers to create the solutions that are necessary,” Cameron said.

He added that TV needs to be at the forefront if 3D is to become ubiquitous. “We realise that broadcast is the future – you guys are the future of 3D,” Cameron continued.

In simple economic terms, film production could build a middling-sized market of equipment and suppliers, but, in the clearest contrast, TV alone can take camera orders into the thousands.

However, the venture is also a sharp rebuke to the plethora of specialist 3D companies and products that have emerged following Avatar's massive box-office success.

Cameron, one of digital production's two most powerful evangelists alongside George Lucas, believes that many of the new launches and innovations are in fact complicating the challenges 3D presents, while concentrating too much on the specification of the hardware and not enough on promoting its adoption.

“To stereographers, I'd caution you that if you over-define your niche as expertise in stereography, you make 3D a problem,” Cameron said.

He then endorsed only one leading camera company, Germany's Arri. At a press conference, he added, “We've got to stop the 'k race.'” The comment referred to the trend across other camera innovators – particularly Sony, Panasonic and Red – to introduce equipment with 4k and higher resolutions.

“I'm cautionary about 4k and beyond because the centre of the pipeline is 2k – the visual effects companies can't operate cost effectively above 2k. So 4k has to be mostly live action only then,” Cameron said.

Arri also distanced itself from the resolution battle at NAB, instead announcing new versions of its Alexa digital camera for different production environments. These include the Alexa M, a 3D-capable handheld product weighing just 2.5kg.

Cameron and Pace describe their approach to 3D as “business model” production. “It's a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many component technologies out there but nobody is really putting it all together,” said Pace.

Both men have a great deal of financial and intellectual capital invested in 3D. They have been working together in the field for 12 years and their original collaboration dates back to underwater camera technology for Cameron's 1989 thriller The Abyss.

The Fusion camera system they developed for Avatar has to date been used on 25 feature films, seven concert films and 40 sporting events, including The Masters golf tournament last week.

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