James Cameron 'Fully Intends' to Make 'Avatar 2 and 3' at Higher Frame Rates

3:18 PM PST 03/30/2011 by Carolyn Giardina
James Cameron

UPDATED: He says at CinemaCon that he is looking seriously at 48 and 60 frames per second.

LAS VEGAS -- Championing the digital 3D movie revolution at a joint appearance at the CinemaCon exhibitors convention Wednesday, the high-powered trio of James Cameron, Jeffrey Katzenberg and George Lucas outlined their latest efforts to wow moviegoers.

Cameron said that shooting movies at a higher frame rate than the standard 24 frames per second will give them an added sense of reality. Katzenberg explained how advances in computing power are affecting how computer graphic artists create stories. Lucas related to the packed session that 2d to 3D conversion takes time and creative talent. 

As evidence of his belief in increasing frame rates, Cameron said he "fully intends" to make Avatar 2 and 3 at higher rates and is looking seriously at 48 and 60 frames per second. "When you author and project a movie at 48 or 60, it becomes a different movie," he said. "The 3D shows you a window into reality; the higher frame rate takes the glass out of the window. In fact, it is just reality. It is really stunning."

STORY: James Cameron Urges Industry to Use Faster Frame Rates

Cameron is scheduled to offer a demonstration of the results Thursday during the Las Vegas confab.

DreamWorks Animation CEO Katzenberg revealed that he is working on scalable multicore processing, calling it a "quantum leap" in speed and power. Animators currently wait hours and even days for computers to render full animation based on their initial, low-resolution footage. But with the new processes, Katzenberg said, "our artists will be able to see and create their work in real time. I can't tell you how transformative that will be for our storytelling. ... That is an extraordinary and revolutionary change in the process."

Discussing the 2D-to-3D conversion process, Lucas said: "We have been working on conversion (for roughly seven years). It's not a technical problem, it's a creative problem getting really talented creative people to work in 3D."

Converting the original Star Wars to 3D will cost more than the original movie's budget, he added, saying, "It is not cheap. It is not fast. If you want do it right, you can do it right." 

Cameron said that converting movies shot in 2D to 3D is not practical in terms of normal postproduction schedules. "I do not believe you can effectively create the conversion process into the normal postproduction chain of a movie unless you are willing to take six to eight months to do the conversion," he said. "Who wants to sit on their $100-150 million (movie) for an additional six to eight months? That is going to cost you a hell of a lot more than shooting in 3D?"

Noting that 3D broadcast production is also evolving, Cameron added: "It is going to get harder to sit in a budget meeting and say 'I don't know how to shoot 3D as cost effectively' when the broadcast world is already doing it." 

The trio also discussed the theatrical experience. "Movie theaters will never ever go away," Lucas said, noting that theaters offer a social experience. "You can't get that on an iPhone." 

During one of the lighter moments during the discussion, Katzenberg turned to Lucas and asked: "So Chapter 7 will be shot in 3D?"

"Yes," Lucas responded. "But then that will be done as a hologram."

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