"Avatar" director James Cameron said Monday that 3-D productions on television need the know-how of 2-D directors and producers to make economic sense for broadcasters and be compelling for viewers.
The director known for championing 3-D technology told an overflow crowd at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas that 3-D won't work on TV if production companies can't utilize the talent they already have.
"People can't completely reinvent how they do things," Cameron said.
It costs too much to hire separate crews to produce the same content in 3-D and 2-D, and separate 3-D productions lose the expertise that comes from directors and producers who have filmed for years in 2-D, he said.
"To grow this market rapidly and correctly with high quality 3-D, let people do what they do," Cameron said.
Cameron said that when he began adopting 3-D technologies into his own filmmaking, he didn't want to use heavy rigs that would take away his opportunities to shoot hand-held or use other techniques.
"I approached that as a director saying, 'Well, I don't want to change the way I make movies,'" he said. "I think the language of cinema is what it is, different people have different styles and so on, but I don't want to be denied my normal tool set."
Cameron and his business partner, Vince Pace, spoke to open the show for media and entertainment professionals. NAB officials said 90,000 people are expected to attend the show through Thursday, with some 1,500 companies offering the latest in broadcasting, production and related equipment.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the nation's largest trade group for radio and television broadcasters and serves as the industry's lobby to the federal government. The group's CEO, Gordon Smith, was expected to outline the state of the broadcast industry in a speech on Tuesday.
Issues being discussed at the show include future business opportunities created through the recent transition to digital broadcasting, regulatory challenges and how broadcasters are adapting to fast-moving changes in mobile technology.
Cameron and Pace announced the formation of their own company on Monday, the Cameron-Pace Group. They described the business as an end-to-end company helping broadcasters work in 3-D.
Cameron said early attempts at 3-D in sports didn't work as well as they could have because the 3-D and 2-D productions were separated, with the 2-D producers getting better personnel and camera positions.
"They were sort of treated as a red-headed stepchild, and then everybody cried that it was costing them too much because there were two entire crews," he said.
Instead, there's going to be one combined 3-D/2-D production, Cameron said.
Pace said viewers have gotten beyond the prettiness of 3-D and need the technology to take a back seat to the creative elements, brought by traditional directors and producers, that make entertainment work.
"What they're bringing to the table is the whole foundation of the whole presentation, the whole basis of the entertainment," he said.
Broadcasters, however, should make sure they're ready for 3-D, Cameron said. It's inevitable that the technology will be universally adopted, he said.
The director said he thinks a big rush in 3-D will come if technology to watch 3-D without glasses becomes easier to put in TV sets.
"At that point, I think the people who are first and foremost as leaders of 3-D content creation are going to be the winners in the overall marketplace, the overall broadcast market," Cameron said. "That's my own personal prediction.
"A lot of people would say that I've just kind of drunk my own Kool-Aid, but everything we've predicted about 3-D has come true and, for the most part, ahead of schedule."