"Avatar" director Cameron in bid to bring 3D to TV

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – “Avatar” director James Cameron is expanding his 3D vision to the small screen.

The technologically minded filmmaker has teamed up with “Avatar” cameraman Vince Pace to form a new venture aimed at driving the widespread adoption of 3D technology in episodic television, sports and advertising.

They said they wanted to “realize 3D’s full potential as a creative and powerful storytelling and live broadcast medium.”

Cameron predicted 3D would become a major player in television programing within five years.

“3D is just how all broadcast entertainment will be done. Sports, episodic drama, scripted and unscripted — we haven’t seen anything yet that doesn’t have a great degree of value added by being in 3D,” the Canadian director told Reuters.

Sales of 3D TV sets have yet to take-off despite big investments by manufacturers like Sony Corp and Mitsubishi Electric Corp and others.

According to a separate report on Monday from NPD Group, consumer awareness of 3D televisions jumped to 36 percent in February 2011 from 28 percent last September.

High prices and the need to wear special 3D glasses are seen as the biggest barriers for consumers.

But Cameron said the development of lighter, less expensive 3D glasses would overcome much of the resistance.

He said the fledgling 3D television industry was caught in a chicken-and-egg situation similar to the movie industry six years ago when theater operators and filmmakers argued there were not enough films, or 3D theaters to justify a change.

“We overcame that hurdle because we were getting constant positive feedback from the audience, and we are seeing the same thing in the broadcast model. Everything has been moving at two or three times the pace than we would have predicted a few years ago,” Cameron said.

The duo’s Burbank, Calif.-based venture, Cameron-Pace Group, plans to develop a new generation of camera systems, services and creative tools. But their mission, Cameron said, is also about “proselytizing to get people to change their perception about 3D, not just the perception of the cost but their perception of the best business model.”

Pace said one of the aims was to bring 3D production costs down to an acceptable level for television budgets. That means training TV makers how to shoot programs in 3D and extract a 2D feed, rather than having two production crews make separate and expensive 2D and 3D versions of the same film or show.

“I think that is a challenge for us — to demonstrate that a well-done 2D product that is successful can easily, easily translate into a 3D revenue stream,” Pace told Reuters.

The 3D technology so far developed by Cameron and Pace has helped bring in $4.7 billion in box office receipts and been used in sports and concert productions worldwide. These include “Avatar” — which grossed a record $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office — “Tron: Legacy” and a U2 concert film.

Their venture was unveiled at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Dean Goodman)

"Avatar" director Cameron in bid to bring 3D to TV