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Filmmakers Lucas, Cameron and Katzenberg Discuss The Digital World of Filmmaking at CinemaCon 2011

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Filmmakers Lucas, Cameron and Katzenberg Discuss The Digital World of Filmmaking at CinemaCon 2011

By Judy Thorburn


Las Vegas Round The Clock -
Women's Film Critic Circle -
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During a luncheon on Wednesday, March 30 at CinemaCon 2011 sponsored by Real D and Barco, there was a panel discussion about the The Digital World of Filmmaking moderated by Michael Lewis featuring filmmakers George Lucas, James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Below are some of the highights from that event.

Regarding the transformation of analog to digital Lucas said, “Digital has opened up a new arena.  With digital projection we wouldn’t have to worry the quality of print.  We will look perfect very time (a movie) is shown.  We are just at the beginning of the technology, scratching the surface of digital. Once we go digital, everything is cheaper, once you have the right digital equipment to start with.

George Lucas
Photo credit:© 2011 Ryan Miller


Cameron:  “Digital has allowed for the creation of worlds that could not be. If we can imagine it, we can create it. The images we are putting up on screen are pretty stunning, compared to when I started.   Prints can only run 16 weeks.  All that is now in the past. We are in a brave new world. We are raising the bar with performance capture…real time production suite…a creation process to make it easier.  The next two Avatar films will be at a higher film rate, 48 and 60 frames per second. The higher frame rate is really stunning creating a reality. Light levels are a big issue for 3D and it needs to be addressed and worked on. The frame rate, a higher resolution 4K- that should be a player in motion artifacts.

James Cameron
Photo credit:© 2011 Ryan Miller

Katzenberg:  There is an innovative spirit in the DNA of people working in animation in every level. The best tools are put in the hands of storytellers.  Each time audiences see better than before.  We are building so much knowledge.  It is a whole new revolution. Scalable multi core processing creates a world in real time, transformative storytelling. The next generation of artist will see work as they are creating it. It is an extraordinary, revolutionary change of process. Avatar set a high bar in level of imagination.  It will happen to us in animation.

Jeffrey Katzenberg
Photo credit:© 2011 Ryan Miller

Asked what his decision was to go 3D , Katzenberg responded, “I had an experience in an IMAX theatre in 2004. I saw  “Polar Express” and it exhilarated me like I never felt; pulled me in a roller coaster ride both emotionally and physically. I thought, if we don’t get on to it, we are toast! This is how we keep the theatrical experience exceptional.  It gives us the opportunity to be as innovative in the theatre experience as in the home.

As for the learning curve for 3D, Cameron went on to say, “It is a different cinematic language.  It does not change the way we shoot. Over the shoulder, close up shots are the same. The director’s camera team and those that understand stereo, 3D, people should be there to enable. 3D is thought of as value added. Bad 3D results in when  a movie is quickly converted.”

Katzenberg: Bad conversions devalues and people who come in for a quick score will affect all of us. Taking the low road messes the opportunity. The cost of shooting in 3D is $10 million for a movie today. The expertise and staff, having them at the moment of conception, designing, conceiving and erecting… the costs of authoring in 3D is coming down.

Cameron:  As cameras get smarter and networking together is getting better, within a few years costs will come down.

Lucas:  As enough trained people are doing it more costs will come down. The more people we can train they will understand the issues in terms of depth. They add a huge contribution to film in relation to where (audience) focus goes.

James Cameron, George Lucas and Jeffrey Katzenberg

Photo credit:© 2011 Ryan Miller

Asked what their vision of the future cinema experience is...

Katzenberg:  For exhibitors to bring together the opportunity for audiences to see a movie and get a meal. For the next blockbuster, merging those two things together, the faster we get there... here is a way to make them (the film experience) more valuable to the customer.

Lucas: We are the great chefs, offering an environment, dining experience and service. It is a big challenge for the future.

As for the explosion of 3D, the trio of filmmakers all agreed, “We are all in the early stages.  There is so much headroom to improve with digital."  Lucas added, “I believe 3D will take over.”

Lucas revealed that he has partnered with Prime Focus to bring Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace to theaters in 3D next February. “It was incredibly important to me that we have the technology, the resources and the time to do this right.  “I’m very happy with the results I’ve been seeing on Episode 1."  "My testament to the theatrical experience is (releasing) Star Wars for the third time. There is a third generation of kids who has never seen it on a big screen.  People who have seen it and have it at home will want to see it again in theatres."


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