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James Cameron, Vince Pace on 3D Broadcasting: Sports, Live Events, Scripted TV Offer Opportunity

James Cameron
Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

Cameron | Pace Group co-founders call for a new business model that combines 2D and 3D shoots.

At this still-early stage of a 3D TV rollout, filling a schedule with 3D programming is a challenge.

“Hollywood is part of the answer, but at 15-25 3D films a year and with long lead times it cannot keep pace with the demand,” said producer, director and 3D advocate James Cameron. “The opportunity is with live events and sports and scripted TV which have a short post cycle and can deliver many more hours per year of high quality entertainment.”

But if more sports and other live events are to be shot and broadcast in 3D, the industry also needs to adopt a new business model. Currently, the same event is typically covered by separate 2D and 3D shoots--and Cameron and Vince Pace, co-founders of Cameron | Pace Group, advocate merging the two productions. “There is no business model that makes any sense for two separate productions,” Cameron said. “There is no technical reason why you need to do that. There is no empirical evidence that faster cutting is necessarily better even in 2D. This is something that needs to get sorted out by the people in charge creatively.”

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Steve Schklair, CEO of 3Ality Technica, shares a similar opinion, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “There aren’t enough camera positions to support two complete broadcasts, and you can’t do two separate (broadcast trucks). There just cannot be two completely separate broadcasts. That doesn’t work with any sort of economic model, at least not now.”

But not everyone in the 3D community agrees. Live coverage of soccer, for example, is considered more difficult than shooting sports such as tennis because of  the size of the stadiums and unpredictable nature of the game. And so organizations such as FIFA, the international soccer federation, appear likely to support two editorial productions for the foreseeable future.

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Asked about FIFA, which is preparing for the 2014 soccer World Cup, Cameron replied, “If we spent a couple hours in a room with FIFA we could convince them we could shoot their sport in a way that people would enjoy and that it wouldn’t compromise the 2D feed.”

Meanwhile, a number of new agreements are spurring on 3D activity. Cameron | Pace Group has struck an alliance with Grass Valley, a leading broadcast equipment manufacturer.

Like CPG, Grass Valley believes that for 3D to be a commercial success in the broadcast industry, both 2D and 3D programming content must come from the same equipment and crew. “Since the introduction of practical 3D production systems for broadcast, the main sticking-point has been the unnecessary costs and workflow issues associated with producing an event for both the traditional 2D audience and the emerging 3D audience. Grass Valley, in its alliance with Cameron | Pace Group, will be able to silence the critics by making the business case for dual production practical while delivering the best pictures to both audiences,” said Alain Andreoli, president and CEO of Grass Valley.

As the first step in the alliance, CPG will incorporate Grass Valley production technologies, including its switchers, into its newest 3D production truck.

Grass Valley also is understood to be the primary supplier of 2D cameras for the 2012 London Olympics. Some of the upcoming Games will be captured in 3D. though production details have not been finalized.

“It would be fantastic do the Olympics,” Cameron said. “I don’t think there is anybody around who could do it better in terms of integrating 3D cameras into robocams and unique POV (point of view) situations.”

In a separate development, camera maker Arri announced that the first production prototypes of its Alexa M—a modular version of its popular Alexa cameras—have been shipped to Cameron and Pace. Earlier this year, CPG announced a strategic collaboration with Arri.

Said Pace, “The success of 3D will be based on designing technology that supports the creative process of the filmmaker; we are excited about the Alexa M towards that goal. The team at ARRI has brought to the industry a great step forward toward quality 3D.”