Cameron aims for speed to enrich 'Avatar 2' images

AP News
Posted: Mar 31, 2011 1:33 PM
Cameron aims for speed to enrich 'Avatar 2' images

James Cameron plans another innovation for his next "Avatar" installment: shooting at double or more the film speed that has been Hollywood's standard since the 1920s, a move he says will greatly improve 3-D images.

Cameron, whose 2009 sci-fi blockbuster raised the bar for digital imagery and put the 3-D craze on the fast track, said Thursday that "Avatar 2" would be shot at 48 or 60 frames a second to reduce an effect called "strobing" that can blur moving images, particularly those in 3-D. For more than 80 years, the norm has been 24 frames a second.

In a demonstration for theater owners at their CinemaCon convention, Cameron played 3-D footage he recently shot at 24, 48 and 60 frames a second to show the better quality of high-speed filming.

The footage of medieval dinner and fight sequences shot at 48 and 60 frames a second were noticeably superior.

At 24 frames, blurriness was very evident when the camera panned or dollied along the dinner table and when two knights dueled with swords. The fuzzy images greatly diminished at 48 frames and virtually vanished at 60 frames.

"I was stunned when I saw it, at how clear and crisp it was," Cameron said. "If 3-D is like looking at reality through a window, we've taken the glass out of the window."

New digital projectors rapidly being installed in theaters can handle the higher frame speeds with no more than a software upgrade, said Cameron, who wants faster filming rates to become the standard for 2-D and 3-D movies.

While 3-D has been a blessing for studios and theaters that charge a few extra dollars for the added dimension, many movie fans complain about eyestrain from blurry 3-D images. Faster film and projection speeds will help eliminate that problem, Cameron said.

"Avatar" is the biggest modern blockbuster, with $2.8 billion in theatrical revenues worldwide. Cameron has no definite timetable for his two planned "Avatar" sequels, but the second film in the franchise still is years away from theaters.

"I'm still just writing the script, so I'm a minimum of 18 months out of having to shoot something," Cameron said. "I've got a bit of time to get this sorted out."