It’s not really a coincidence that James Cameron chose now to announce that Titanic would be returning to cinemas in a remastered, shiny new 3D version. He’s seemingly never happier than when getting the chance to spread the good word about the wonders and advantages of the third dimension on film. In fact, he even took part in a big event where he talked with Michael Bay and had the filmmaker show off some footage from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And Empire’s Man in LA was in the audience.
While the fresh look at the new Transformers film was the undoubted highlight – we got a look at the first five minutes of the film, featuring a battle on Cybertron and a little background as to why America and Russia suddenly became very interested in the race to the Moon, plus some frankly impressive shots of Josh Duhamel and his troopers leaping from a damaged transport plane with wing suits, then swooping between the steel canyons of Chicago – the chance to watch the two directing types chat away was also a draw.
In person, the pair was laidback and chummy, trading barbs (Bay was quick to point out the technical challenges of shooting with 3D, while Cameron chided him for not deciding to shoot with the technology earlier).
“Years ago, Jim Cameron called me and told me I needed to do 3D. I told him no! Then he invited me to visit him on the Titanic set and he said we were a lot alike. Jim’s meaner than me,” laughs Bay. “Then, I was starting work on the first Transformers, and he was making Avatar. He was shooting in this tiny set and asked me to come see it. It looked like mission control, full of hard drives and computers… I’m old school! I like 35mm Panavision cameras and I try to do as much as possible in camera. He told me they had great algorithms and things like that. I was, like, “What the f**k?” But on this latest Transformers film, the studio asked me to do 3D and I told them I’d investigate it, as I’m a big proponent of creating a great experience for cinemagoers. The key for me was to look at it as a fun tool, and I had a great time.”
Bay also recalled his first big problem with the tech. “The first day was wonderful. I always have a lot of depth in my shots – foreground, middle ground, and background. I woke up the next day in love with 3D. Then my producer, Ian Bryce called to say we lost the first day. THE FIRST WHOLE DAY thanks to hard drives failing or something. We made up the time and I ended up loving the 3D, but it was tough as hell. The 3D rigs had a problem with dust and they needed to be more robust.”
“We’re working to make the cameras smaller and more robust and to take some of the techs out of the loop,” says Cameron. “Right now with the technology, we’re where the automobile industry was in 1905, only 10 years in.” Oh, and they both bemoaned the lack of respect for the conversion process. “We found a way to get people back into cinemas, to enjoy the theatrical experience unlike anything you can get at home. And people have been abusing it left and right,” says Cameron. “Some studios are making mistakes, treating it like a regular part of post-production, like a sound mix. It’s not like that at all.”
And what does Cameron see as the next step? Well, aside from improving the theatrical experience and 3D TV that won’t require glasses (expect that in a few years, apparently), he just has one big aim: “We want to keep blowing audiences’ minds!”
One last bit of Dark of the Moon news that didn't come out of the event, by the way - the global release date has been moved up two whole days to June 29. Unless you live in Japan (July 29) and China (July 8).