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NAB 2012: James Cameron Reveals New Camera System Used for Mariana Trench Dive

UP: James Cameron
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

A thumb-sized 1080p camera was developed by the the Cameron|Pace Group to shoot 3D footage.

James Cameron used a new camera system he developed on his dive to the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest point, on March 25.

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Cameron, a National Geographic explorer, became the first man to complete a solo dive to the Challenger Deep—roughly 7 miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean and roughly 200 miles from Guam.

A massive effort led by the Cameron | Pace Group, the company founded by Cameron and his fellow co-chairman with Vince Pace, involved bringing 3D cameras on the journey with an eye toward a documentary as well as scientific research.

“We created a tiny camera that fits in a very small housing to sit out at the end of a camera boom on a one person sub that was going down to 36,000 feet,” Cameron said. “We developed a 1080p camera that was about the size of your thumb that sat inside a little titanium housing, and we generated 3D from it by essentially putting two housings side by side, because the interocular was small enough.

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“We set it out on a pan tilt at the end of a two meter carbon fiber board so we could actually image the sub while it was shooting new animals and so on. We used a version of that inside the sub to generate pictures of me flying the sub and what was going on inside and outside.”

The dive involved “six HD cameras in an integrated system with internal hard drives with up to nine hours of recording capacity from six HD feeds in a prototype submarine,” Cameron added, noting that the team’s R&D took six months.

Pace said that CPG R&D is used for a variety of applications, and this is one example.

“That kind of miniaturization of cameras is in demand,” he said, explaining that this technology could find itself in future CPG systems, perhaps as “helmetcams” or on motorcycles.

Asked if such a system could be used for Avatar 2 and 3, Cameron answered, Possibly. For a gun and run action camera, I could see that.”