I asked them about the cinematographer’s transition to 3D, and as you will see, Cameron is particularly vocal on the subject.
Vince Pace and James Cameron have been pioneering digital 3D filmmaking for a dozen years, starting with a focus on underwater movies, and culminating in the landmark 3D feature, Avatar. Pace is a cinematographer, stereographer and 3D maven. Cameron’s other directing credits include Terminator, The Abyss, True Lies and Titanic. Cameron also recently set the world record for solo deep sea diving.
Some notes on the interview:
lighting is lighting
The contemporary filmmaker’s landscape is evolving into a mélange of 2D, 3D and virtual. Indeed some projects are dominated by green screens, and a few films even involve no real world elements at all, just virtual camera moves following actors in motion capture suits, (a situation that is wonderfully ridiculed in Leos Carax’ Holy Motors).
Perhaps Cameron’s most memorable point is that, even in a virtual movie, the filmmaker still needs a cinematographer who will apply the very same lighting skills he does in the real world. “Lighting, says Cameron, is lighting”.
It is in this spirit that Roger Deakins, ASC, served as visual consultant on the animation features How to Train Your Dragon and Rango.
I shall return to the intriguing subject of virtual cinematography in more detail in a future post.
Cameron reminds us that for a cinematographer to make the transition from 35mm to 3D stereography requires a double jump: first to digital, and then to 3D, and he points out that 2011 was the year for single or double jumps for some very talented cinematographers.
The ASC jumpers include Emmanuel Lubezki, whose first digital feature, Gravity will be converted to 3D in post, Roger Deakins, who did his first digital 2D shoot, In Time, and Robert Richardson, who double-jumped with Hugo, and won an Oscar for best cinematography. Vince Pace assisted the Hugo filmmakers in exploring 3D stereo.
It’s equally daunting for a director to venture into stereographic storytelling, and this past year’s 3D novices include some big names like Peter Jackson (The Hobbit), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Ridley Scott (Prometheus) and Wim Wenders (Pina).
Cameron and Pace see this trend as part of an inexorable evolution to an all-3D future. I’m not so sure; it is natural for a filmmaker to explore 3D and try it on a project. The real question is how many of these filmmakers will shoot nothing but 3D, as opposed to jumping back and forth between 2D and 3D. My own intuition is that 3D stereo is destined to become a genre, one storytelling possibility among many, until we make real progress in holography.
change it up
Cameron provocatively asserts that one can learn the essentials of 3D in a couple of days, and he brushes aside the different schools of 3D stereography, saying that he and Pace have used both convergent and parallel approaches, and that he disapproves of “3D cops”.
The director humorously evokes the council of Nicea, a 4th century gathering of christian bishops to define religious dogma, stating that the 3D world needs a similar meeting of minds.
I came away from our discussion with the impression of a very practical, hands-on approach to 3D stereo, with no taboos. As Pace concludes simply: “if you like it, do more; if you don’t, change it up”.
Vince Pace discusses Hugo in a Hollywood Reporter article
The Guardian article about Cameron’s upcoming production of 3 Avatar sequels back to back.
Roger Deakins discusses Rango on his forum