Presenting the highlights of NABshow 2011, which drew media professionals to Las Vegas from over 150 countries.
'Avatar' director James Cameron has again decided to involve himself in the broader world of film and TV production by setting up a 3D technology and consulting company with his long-standing collaborator, camera pioneer Vince Pace.The Cameron Pace Group (CPG) is a response to what both founders see as problems with 3D adoption, particularly for broadcast. Cameron helped set up Digital Domain in 1993 when he wanted to raise standards in CGI (he sold his interest in that company five years ago).
Cameron and Pace want to develop processes by which TV companies can migrate to 3D cost-effectively and preserve and capitalise on the skills of their existing staff, rather than setting up expensive dual 2D/3D crewing and post-production.
"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.
However, the move also reflects frustration at how 3D is seen as slipping down the broadcast technology agenda. 3D production had less of a profile at this year's NABshow in Las Vegas - until Cameron's 'intervention'.
Pace said that part of the difficulty is that the current 3D infrastructure has little coherence, adding to broadcasters' concerns about the cost of transition. "It's a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many component technologies out there but nobody is really putting it all together," said Pace.
Cameron also argued that some of the 3D experts now marketing their services are in fact only making things more confusing. "To stereographers, I'd caution you that if you over-define your niche as expertise in stereography, you make 3D a problem," he said.
He is also irritated by what he calls 'the k race', the competition among most leading camera suppliers to launch products with ever higher pixel resolution. Cameron said that with most visual effects companies currently only able to produce cost-effective work within TV budgets at 2k resolution, the drive for 4k and now even 8k capability is simply adding cost. Instead, he said that better quality 3D can be achieved by using engineering to drive higher frame capture rates.
The new company faces a number of challenges beyond the technical. Unlike Digital Domain, CPG will take its founders beyond technology into territory akin to that inhabited by traditional management consultants.
Also, broadcasters' reluctance to make large scale 3D investments today is not simply a matter of cost. They are directing a lot of their R&D efforts to integrating mainstream channels with apps and social networking, as more and more displays and set-top boxes incorporate Internet connectivity, Twitter, Facebook and high quality streaming video.
"We think 3D will happen at a fairly gentle rate," said Neil Maycock, chief architect for UK broadcast technology group Snell. "By contrast, we see Internet-enabled sets and boxes eclipsing 3D now. They're going to be a significant market much sooner."