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Cameron: 3D broadcasters will be winners

Broadcasters that prepare for a 3D future will be the overall winners as the technology becomes all-pervasive over the next few years, according to Hollywood director James Cameron.

The Avatar director delivered the opening keynote at the NAB Show in Las Vegas alongside technology partner and 3D producer Vince Pace. He that the emergence of widely available 3D TVs that could work with passive glasses, followed ultimately by the emergence of screens that could enable 3D viewing from multiple angles without glasses, would help overcome the “chicken and egg” problem of their being not enough content to drive purchases of 3D TVs and not enough proliferation of 3D TVs to drive content creation.

“I would caution everyone in the broadcast industry against not being ready when that happens,” said Cameron. “Some people would accuse me of drinking my own Kool-Aid but everything we have predicted [about 3D] has happened – and faster than we expected.”

Cameron and Pace used the opening day of NAB to officially launch their new 3D technology company, Cameron Pace. The pair said the goal of the company was to develop new 3D camera technology to accelerate and enable the uptake of 3D by filmmakers and broadcasters. “It’s our belief that there are lots of myths about barriers to entry into the world of 3D,” said Cameron. Chief among these was the idea that 3D production needed to be looked at in isolation from 2D, a notion reinforced by some 3D technologists that wanted to create their own boxed-off area of expertise.

Cameron and Pace argued that the business model for 3D would not work as long as 3D production required broadcasters to duplicate production crews and shoot 3D versions of events separately. “There will be one stream and 3D will be overlaid on that. In the future everything will be 3D and 2D will be extracted from that,” said Cameron. Cameron and Pace have therefore developed a shadow camera system where 3D is “piggy-backed” on 2D, enabling established crews and directors to determine how something is filmed. The pair highlighted coverage of the recent Augusta Masters golf tournament to show how this worked in practice.

Cameron said that the transition to 3D would be similar to the transition from black and white to colour. “Just now there are 3D programmes and 3D channels,” he said. “Eventually that will go away and there will be 3D across them all.” To enable this, he said, there would have to be a significant increase in the number of 3D rigs supplied to the broadcast industry, from a handful today to thousands over the next couple of years.

At a press conference following the keynote, Cameron said that he and Pace had “a transformative vision of where this is going” with near 100% adoption of 3D in the cinema industry over the next five years now expected. He was critical of the movie industry’s emphasis on higher ‘spatial’ resolution and the adoption of the 4K (4,096 x 2,160) format, arguing that a it would be more effective to use additional bandwidth for higher ‘temporal’ resolution (meaning higher frame rates). “The broadcast industry is pulling away from the movie industry [on] frame rates,” he said. “The movie industry is too focused on spatial resolution.”

Cameron said that the new company would focus exclusively on 3D innovation. “We have a specific strategy. We will invest in services and in R&D. That strategy is about making camera systems smaller, lighter and with higher quality,” he said.