David Wertheimer, CEO and executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California, said Cameron’s use of newly developed CGI and “stereoscopic” 3-D technologies is going to change audience expectations and spur other filmmakers to follow his lead.
“Whether or not this film does huge numbers at the box office or just okay numbers, Jim Cameron will have moved the industry forward in terms of a new track from an entertainment perspective and greatly accelerated the pace of change and the audience acceptance of 3-D,” Wertheimer said.
Since the 1950s, Wertheimer said, 3-D has largely been viewed by audiences and filmmakers as part novelty, part gimmick.
The technology had a resurgence of 3-D in the 1970s and 1980s and even a third wave in recent years, with movies like My Bloody
Valentine and Final Destination 4 along with a host of animated films aimed at younger audiences.
The latest wave of 3-D, led by Avatar, will guarantee the technology is not only here to stay but ready to reach a new level of respectability, Wertheimer predicted.
The “fundamental leap” in Avatar will be Cameron’s ability to meld the performances of actors against a highly realistic visual backdrop, he said.
Video games, for example, have been able to replicate the movement of human characters accurately. But giving those characters an emotional life – the flush in the cheeks, the glimmer in the eyes, for example – is what Wertheimer believes Cameron is set to achieve.
“When you look at (video game characters) up close, they don’t seem human to you because they don’t have that level of realism in the facial features and in the eyes.”
“It’s that emotional quality that Jim Cameron is really trying to capture in this movie that represents a quantum leap forward in terms of how he’s creating the 3-D characters and the 3-D world.”
Wertheimer said research done by his centre has already shown attitudes towards 3-D change dramatically once people see films using the latest technology. The future of 3-D will no longer be confined to horror movies or kids’ films.
“So Avatar will do something really dramatic from that perspective. It will expose a huge group of people to 3-D that have not seen the new 3-D and that will change the landscape,” Wertheimer said.
“It will also open up the floodgates in terms of filmmakers saying, `I want to make my next film in 3-D.'”