Friday, December 11, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: James Cameron Interview! Talks AVATAR, BATTLE ANGEL, THE DIVE And More!!

Jim here. I had the great pleasure to speak with James Cameron today! I can hear in his voice that he is so pleased to have AVATAR delivered to the fans - and he let us in on a few news items too...

We have been waiting a long time for this movie and the light is at the end of the tunnel. Stereoscopic 3D will never be the same again. Hollywood will never be the same again!

Cameron is a class act. Can you believe I haven't see it yet? He couldn't believe it either, but I do not live in a major center so... I will be seeing it with you guys at the midnight showing on the 17th :-) Michael gets the goods this time around!

Lets go through the interview and I will give you a brief explanation at various points:



1:15 Cameron had only seen AVATAR end to end in 3D at a screening just before this press tour! He had some questions in his mind: Did it even work? Eyestrain? :-)

5:35 Performance Capture - some directors treat it as a stage play, which does not work for him. Cameron worked out coverage blocks at the moment of shooting - master, etc. He figured out angles later. Up to 12 HD cameras for reference. Wide shots for placement and editing.

10:00 When Cameron gave Weta the edited template (his cameras cut together with stereo space) - the stereo space numbers never changed! (the numbers that make up where convergence is, etc). Weta used them exactly - "...that's what really saved us" - they had a 1000 shots come in the door in the last 2 or 3 months of post. There was absolutely no time to re-render all that for stereo. All the stereo was worked out a year earlier! "Worked flawlessly".
I find this amazing! Cameron has pulled off a shrewd trick here saving time and money by thinking ahead.

10:35 Cameron addresses why some directors are hesitant to jump into 3D and why they can and should. He talks about the culture of 3D and getting the right S3D people to surround you on a project. Cameron's crew was able to take the stylistic cues from the first half of AVATAR's templates and simply apply them to the second half - makes it much easier on him who then just does stereo reviews and signs off on them - or with minor tweaks.

12:45 The critical thing with AVATAR was to make sure the live action was going to cut well (as opposed to the CG). Just thinking in 3D - you can change the stereo space in CG at any time, but you can't change it once you have shot it with a S3D camera rig. The trick is to make sure "anything will cut with anything" - and he means anything and anywhere in ANY shot.

13:50 Cameron throws out all the stereo rules that have ever been used! He came up with a whole new "stereo aesthetic" for AVATAR: "You put the convergence where you are looking. Period". This is an entirely new way of shooting 3D and it enables effective cutting. What it does NOT do is put the convergence at the screen plane where objects come flying out at you. That, is "bullshit".

15:10 Cameron avoids discussing whether AVATAR 2 and 3 takes place on or off Pandora. :-)

15:40 Sam Worthington is signed up for sequels "by his excitement; he wants to do another one". Zoe Saldana wants to do another one too. Cameron realizes option deals are subject to many conditions.

16:20 On BATTLE ANGEL: "I am not even sure that I am going to do that film". And he has no one in mind for casting.
Oh well - that is disappointing news. However maybe it is because AVATAR 2 and 3 are heating up big time now! :-)

16:50 On THE DIVE: "As a next film, THE DIVE is a more likely candidate". He doesn't want to do another 4 year movie right away and this drama is more immediate.
Can't wait this project! Huge potential here.

17:00 On SANCTUM AND FANTASTIC VOYAGE and anything else he wants to produce: "I am kinda out of the producing business. I don't like that - it is just not satisfying enough." SANCTUM is being done to illustrate the power of 3D in a modestly budgeted drama. Only 10% of SANCTUM will be underwater with much of it in caves and it is a survival drama.
Looking forward to this!

18:00 Cameron is still co-investigator on the MARS ROVER mastcam and will become more active on that after AVATAR. Also, his work on that doesn't really start in earnest until it is on the surface of Mars and sending back imagery.
This last one (amongst others) was Michael's and we both share an intense interest in astronomy!

Special thanks to Jim Cameron and Fox for setting this up. Looking forward to more! :-) I wish I had more time for this call. I was supposed to keep it to 15 minutes but as you can see 18 minutes came and went like it was nothing. I had many more questions for him but I think I hit the more pressing ones for us :-)

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