Cameron Geeks Out on Avatar
BD: And will it be in 3-D?
JC: Eventually, because the new Blu-ray players that are 3-D enabled to a 3-D TV screen actually produce a pretty spectacular image. They're not widely available yet, but I can imagine that we'll do a 3-D release, if not immediately, certainly within two years.
BD: What do you want to direct next?
JC: I haven't decided. I've got a number of possibilities -- all cool stuff that I've developed -- and I just really want the dust to settle from this one to see what my appetite is.
BD: What's on your wish list for technical improvements?
JC: Lots. Here's a big one -- and not enough people are talking about this: 3-D makes us see better certain defects in the basic system of cinema -- the 24 frames-per-second display rate, which already has been eliminated by sports broadcasters as being insufficient. They've already got 60 frames. So I would like to shoot a movie at 48 or 60 frames-per-second, and have it displayed digitally at that rate. There's no reason why the digital projectors can't do it: the little Mims device that is the DLP chip can oscillate at, I think, up to 160 Hz. So, that right there allows us to have a new horizon in cinema, whether it's 2-D or 3-D. Now I think it gets complicated with respect to visual effects because you don't want to be rendering 60 frames when you used to be rendering 24. So what do you do? Do you render at 30 frames and do a 2-D interpolation with optical flow to generate the inter frames? That needs to be looked at. But that's the kind of thing I think about as the next horizon in terms of presentation and really blowing people away in the theater.
BD: But you've definitely broken down any distinction between pre and post.
JC: Absolutely. And, by the way, we didn't 100% crack the code on this movie for how to proceed. For me, at this point, filmmaking is as much about process as result, so we're actually meeting with all our department heads from virtual production, post-production. Joe's coming in and we're going to do kind of a big post game where we do a retreat for three or four days and actually try to codify and document everything that we did and everything we need to do better next time, because another one of my process goals next time is to make the whole thing faster, more efficient, more streamlined, because I don't want to take four-and-a-half years next time I make one of these things. And I don't think the fans want to wait that long either, now that they're going to get a taste of Avatar. If it's successful, they're going to want something a little quicker.
BD: So the idea of a sequel intrigues you?
JC: Oh, yeah, but I think that whatever I do, whether it's a sequel or going on to something else, the same rules are going to apply. And, again, it's streamlining the pipeline, making it all clearer, more direct and more efficient because we stumbled around a lot. And, of course, we knew that was going to happen because so much of it was R&D, so much of it was experimental.
BD: But you must take pride in watching some of your advancements being utilized on Tintin.
JC: Yeah, it is cool to see the whole head rig system -- the image-based facial performance stuff being utilized, because when I initially presented Avatar to Digital Domain in '95, and I did a napkin sketch of a helmet with a camera on it, shooting the face from a few inches away, that's exactly what we wound up doing. They all thought I was out of my mind at that point.
BD: Did you enjoy it as much as everyone else the first time you watched it in a theater?
JC: Absolutely. That's the beauty of a film like this where it goes through the whole process of Weta bringing the shots up from our template level, which is fairly crude, to the finished level, that I actually get to sort of see the film almost as an outsider, even though I've been intimately involved with every shot. But the level of execution of these shots, the photoreality is so great, the detail is so great, that I can sit and watch it in 3-D and see stuff I'd never seen before."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.