James Cameron Believes That Technology Drives Creativity

Advancements come out of learning from mistakes

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

As he prepares to start filming the sequels to Avatar, director James Cameron is taking a look back, recalling what went right, what went wrong, and how his production team can improve the process. And one thing is certain for the director, the technology he relies on drives his creativity.

About two months after we finished Avatar, we came back and did a big post-game analysis. I asked every department to develop a white paper on what we did right, what we did wrong, what we could do better next time. And out of that came our marching orders for developing new software and improvements to the system. – James Cameron

Whether developing the software that created the liquid metal T-1000 shape shifting Terminator for T2, or the amazing and deeply colorful 3D imagery for Avatar, Cameron has always lived on the bleeding edge of visual effects. So much so that he co-founded Digital Domain, which became a virtual 800 pound gorilla in Hollywood during the 90s and early 2000s. And even though Digital Domain ran into some financial trouble, that was long after Cameron had moved on to other things, such as deep sea exploration and making movies like Avatar.

After Avatar was put in the can, Cameron pressed his team to do some deep evaluation on what worked during filming and post-production, what didn’t, and what they could do to streamline the process. As such, Cameron says they will be able to produce the next three Avatar films in less time and for less money.

“… [The technology on the Avatar sequels] won’t be anything revolutionary,” Cameron said to Create Magazine, “it’s just ways to make our pipeline more efficient, more creatively intuitive, and more cost-effective.”

Cameron goes on to say the first Avatar film was essentially the prototype for a new way of filmmaking, and as such, incurred a lot of expensive development costs. With all that behind them, Cameron and his team have focused on developing new tools and software that builds on those developments and streamlines them for more efficient use.

But that doesn’t mean that new tools like the Oculus Rift will become viable production tools, at least on a Cameron set. “I think VR and conventional cinema are two separate things,” Cameron adds. “The whole point of directing a movie is directing an audience’s eye to the thing you want them to see, but in a VR environment, they’re free to direct themselves.”

Cameron says that’s what makes devices like the Oculus so attractive to the video game industry, that’s where the game player can interact with the environment. But for movies, it would prove counter productive (and likely far more expensive).

But having said that, Cameron is convinced that without technological breakthroughs like it, Hollywood could stagnate. “The tech enables the creativity. That’s what people need to understand,” Cameron says. “The virtual-performance capture we’re doing on the Avatar films enables a form of creativity that never would have been possible before, in the same way that the invention of the camera enabled the creation of cinema in the first place.”

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