Cameron Exhorts Korean Filmmakers on 3D

Will 3D become the standard format for movies in the future? Yes, according to Avatar director James Cameron, who gave the keynote speech Thursday on “Renaissance Now in Imagination and Technology" at Seoul Digital Forum.

In a presentation that touched on a range of topics from 3D TV to games to conversion from 2D to 3D, Cameron tried to explain using a past example.

“I’m sure the same question was asked in the first few years of color movies,” he said. It took 25 years for all films to be made in color. “3D won’t take that long to fully take over.”

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Avatar, a 3D epic which made $2.8 billion in gross ticket sales, became the biggest boxoffice hit in Korean cinema history earlier this year. Cameron found the film’s success in a key instinct in many theatergoers.

“They saw 3D as the premium viewing experience,” he said. Now, according to Cameron, the goal for 3D screens worldwide is to double the number in a year to 18 months. For many producers, 3D is also a major cash cow. In Avatar’s case, Cameron explained, about 40% of the 3D screens were generating 80% of the film’s revenue, partly because of the higher ticket price, but also simply the audience preferred seeing the movie at a 3D cinema.

“Quite simply, where they had a choice, the audience was selecting the best possible way to see the movie,” he said.

Throughout his speech, Cameron stressed the potential for 3D home screens, partly because he understands that it’s a huge market for Korean conglomerates who are aggressively investing in digital media.

“Korean consumers are rapid adopters of new technology, and with consumer electronics giants like Samsung and LG moving aggressively into 3D displays, alliances with content creators and distribution networks will soon bring exciting 3D to the home,” he said.

As a new experiment, Cameron expressed his interest in shooting 3D sports as what he views to be “the early driver of 3D into the home.”

“We’ve shot football, basketball, soccer, golf, auto racing, boxing, martial arts, everything you can think of, and the results are stunning in every case,” he said. “3D shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, it should piggyback onto the existing methods for shooting sports, which are already a mature science.”

3D experience in drama and comedy is still a question to be explored, but the director hinted at his conviction.

“There is no doubt that 3D adds value to every type of content,” he said. “3D can make a good subject great and even make a boring subject interesting.”

While acknowledging its great potential, he also admitted to dangers and challenges to be tested and experimented with the relatively new technology. “3D requires a new production culture, a new aesthetic, and new training, in addition to new equipment,” he said.

In an industry full of hope for creating a new market for conversion from a 2D image to 3D, Cameron was adamant in his suggestion to many Korean media professionals.

“If you want to make a movie or a TV show in 3D now, the answer is simple – shoot in 3D,” he said. “Conversion should only be used for classic titles that still have high value in the market, but were not shot originally in 3D, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. Maybe even Terminator 2.”

Cameron also cautioned his Korean counterparts in creating 3D infrastructure and the relative lack of quality content so far.

“I know there’s a project right now for a satellite 3D channel,” he said. “Now you have the channel and the set. You have to get the content, which is the missing piece. Train the crews to be able to shoot entertainment and sports and encourage Korean filmmakers to be making 3D movies as well.”

The biggest hurdle to rapid mainstream adoption of 3-D is not technological shortcomings, but the lack of 3-D content to watch, Cameron said.

"If you play all the 3-D movies in existence on your fancy new 3-D TV, it will keep you entertained for about 3 days," he said. "This content gap is the biggest hurdle for the rapid adoption of 3D TV."

Asked about the prospects for Internet streaming of 3-D movies, Cameron said he was upbeat.

"3-D laptops are already here," Cameron said. "I've already seen some very good ones."

Cameron also said he intends to personally dedicate himself to helping the industry adopt 3-D without creating a consumer backlash. That will include continuing to create quality 3-D content, like a sequel to Avatar, which he estimated will take about 3 years to make — 18 months less than it took the first. The release date will be announced in a few months, he said.

By Park Soo-mee, The Hollywood Reporter