Amsterdam, September 12, 2011: IBC Theatre. James Cameron and Vincent Pace showed off 18 minutes of Titanic converted to 3D as well as clips from their upcoming Cirque du Soleil film, while noted documentary film maker Sir David Attenborough screened his Flying Monsters 3D.
Aimed at broadcasters, the evening started with Don Shaw from Christie Digital (the projector people) talking about the importance of higher frame rates for making 3D smoother—minimizing or eliminating “strobing” and other annoying effects. (More about frame rates another time). He showcased technology innovations—an end-to-end solution for broadcasting live alternative content in 3D to theatrical venues with greater ease (I’m very proud to say that the company where I work, International Datacasting, is part of the solution presented, as well as our partners at Sensio Technologies. My colleagues helped pull the demonstration off without a hitch, bravo!)
But the highlight of the event naturally was watching movies and looking to see if the technical and artistic bar has moved forward. James Cameron took the stage (amid a bunch of awards hoopla you can follow elsewhere) and preached the gospel of 3D: “Last year 21% all movie revenue came from 3D,” “I will shoot every movie going forward in 3D”, and my favorite: “Let me tell you about my new movie coming April 5, 2012, Titanic.”
Yes, Titanic is being converted to 3D with a release scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing (or as Cameron called it a “trifecta of good marketing.”) Cameron emphasized that it is always preferable to shoot in 3D rather than convert a film but where it’s not possible “there’s conversion and there’s conversion” saying he wouldn’t have spent $18 million adding 3D if he didn’t think the results would be worth it.
Hollywood is rushing to convert 2D films to 3D with varying degrees of success. The Titanic footage looked smooth and watchable. The Cirque du Soleil footage which was captured in 3D is gorgeous. The 3D is subtle and restrained, it adds aesthetically to the content. I’ve seen the Cirque shows the clips were taken from and the 3D actually improved on them.
Flying Monsters 3D is a documentary by Sir David Attenborough, examining fossils of early flying dinosaurs or pterosaurs, and their evolution up to extinction. With clever mingling of CGI, live action and 3D the film makes a serious subject a bit more whimsical and accessible. The 3D looked good and lends itself well to scenes with flying.
The event was designed to help win over broadcasters to the merits of 3D and reassure them that the technology is catching up with promises. Cameron’s emphasis on new dual work flow capabilities (shooting 2D and 3D simultaneously) helps. Live alternative programming and 3D television are both getting better, fast. That’s a message broadcasters are starting to consider.