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NAB 2012: James Cameron and Vince Pace Aiming for 3D Profitability

James Cameron
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for DGA

Their Cameron|Pace Group will present a "5D" business model at this week's National Broadcasters convention.

LAS VEGAS—Arguing that films and TV shows should be shot in 3D rather than shot in 2D and then converted to 3D, James Cameron said, “Hollywood needs to wake up and smell the coffee.”

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, the NAB Show, in Las Vegas, Cameron said that when deciding to shoot in 2D and then convert to 3D in postproduction instead of shooting a project natively in 3D, “Bean counters think they are comparing apples to apples.”

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However, that is not the case he contended, explaining that If 3D is done as a “top-down push” just to attain profitability then the 3D will fail, because it could be handed off to “middle managers who have to meet a budget” or to  “directors who feel it is being pushed on to them.”

Cameron, who was on hand at NAB with Vince Pace—the pair are co-chairman of Cameron | Pace Group—pointed out that his recent work to create Titanic 3D took 14 months and cost $18 million. “If you are willing do that, fine,” he said. “But who is willing to make a $150 million movie and then sit on the interest costs for a year while you post produce it in 3D? It is going to be a helluva lot more expensive (than shooting native 3D).”

He added that some have an “imagined fear” of the difficulty level of shooting new movies 3D, but suggested that by doing 3D production in post, “what you get is somewhere between garbage and mediocrity at best.”

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Cameron and Pace launched CPG a year ago at NAB and they returned this year with a focus on the 3D business model and making the format profitable.

With an eye toward live sports, CPG has been offering a Shadowcam “5D” system, meaning that a 2D and 3D production is piggybacked on a single rig. It has already been used on productions including last year’s US Open Tennis Championship and recent The Masters golf tournament. At NAB, the team is extending the camera system, with the introductions of new tools including a Shadowcam handheld camera rig and a Shadowcaster “5D” mobile unit.

CPG is presenting “5D” as a business model where the cost of 2D/3D can equal that of 2D. Currently, it is not uncommon for live sports coverage to use a separate 3D crew.

“People tend to want to approach (5D) as a one-off test,” Cameron suggested as the reason. “You’ve got to commit to a season. You are not able amortize it (with a single shoot).”

The pair suggests that for series television, the notion of 5D is more of a “transition approach.” They view this model as closer to feature production than to live sports, and they don’t recommend the “5D” for movies (Hugo was among the latest releases to be shot with the CPG 3D camera rigs).

“If I were producing an episodic series, I would produce it like Avatar with one 3D camera system (and extract the single eye for the 2D),” Cameron said. “I would encourage people to go right to a native 3D and extract the 2D. I think episodic will gravitate toward the feature model.”