James Cameron, Jon Landau Explore Option to Improve Digital Movie Quality

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The "Avatar" director and his producing partner are exploring shooting and projecting digital movies at a higher frame rate in the hopes of achieving brighter images and improved 3D.

LAS VEGAS -- James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau are exploring shooting and projecting digital movies at a higher frame rate than the standard 24 frames per second. By moving to rates of 48 or 60 frames per second, they hope to achieve brighter images and improved 3D

Cameron is slated to offer a presentation on the subject Thursday at CinemaCom in Los Vegas, and Landau spoke about the issue, which is becoming a hot topic, at a Christie customer event at the confab Tuesday.

"It improves (3D)," Landau said. "An artifact in 3D (creates) strobing that goes away at higher frame rates. (Strobing) is more noticeable in 3D (than 2D)."

Landau suggested that higher frame rates also means that the shutter is closed for less time, resulting in a brighter image. That is a topic that is particularly noteworthy in 3D, as the glasses can reduce the amount of light that the viewer sees.

Also on quality issues, he commented: "We are taking (currently used) 24 frames per second to 30 for all ancillary markets. You are degrading the master image to do that."

These higher frame rates are not a common feature in digital cinema technology today, though Landau told The Hollywood Reporter that development is being explored. "We are working with (projector) companies like Christie, we are working with server companies, we are really exploring how to do it," Landau said.

Landau related that the capabilities are already available in today's digital cameras. "We have done tests ourselves with different digital cameras and proven that they can all shoot at the higher frame rates. They all could, but they alway utilize it for slow motion. They will record something at 48 or 60 frames per second, but when they play it back at 24, they are doing slow motion. Now we want to do it, but play it back at those same rates."

He said of higher frame rates: "We think it will make a big difference to the audience experience -- not just for 3D movies, but for all movies."

Landau was introduced at the reception with a string of credits including Titanic, Avatar and "soon Avatar 2 and 3."

"Soon is a relative term," Landau responded, as the audience chuckled.

Titanic will be released in 3D next year, marking 100 years since the ship's voyage.

"We are working with a number of different vendors," Landau said of the Titanic conversion.

He emphasized the importance of the director's involvement in the process: "Jim is a part of the process. You have to engage the filmmaker," he said.

On the general topic of 2D-to-3D conversion, Landau said: "We don't believe in (converting) except with library titles."

He said of moviemaking: "We have to make good products that captivate the audience, and bring innovation into our products. ... Innovation is tricky; you can't be afraid to fail."