Back in May, we reported that director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were converting their 1997 Best Picture winner Titanic for a 3D re-release on April 6, 2012, which is just days away from the 100th anniversary of the Titanic setting sail. Given the growing disdain for 3D movies lately, there were several fans who voiced their displeausre for the announcement, which some thought to be rather ironic, given that James Cameron has spoken out against rushed 3D conversions in the past.
However, if there is one man who can do 3D right - even 3D conversions - it's James Cameron, whose 3D masterpiece Avatar overtook Titanic as the highest-grossing movie in cinematic history. This Titanic 3D conversion is no rush job, though, as I witnessed myself on the Paramount lot today with a special presentation of eight 3D scenes.
James Cameron and Jon Landau were on hand to present this footage, and, for James Cameron, he seemed to be more excited that those who never got to experience Titanic on the big screen, will be able to do so in April.
"There's a whole generation of people who haven't seen it in theaters at all. I love 3D. I think it looks spectacular. If I would have had 3D cameras at the time, and if there were 3D theaters at the time, I certainly would have shot it in 3D. It's also just a way of reinventing the concept of a re-release, and getting people to come back to theaters and commit that three hours and 15 minutes to relive the experience again. I think the outcome, when you come out of the theater, is going to be a bit more powerful than you remembered from having watched it on home video."
"We selected the scenes based on how I could trigger your memories of having watched the film before. There's a little bit that's representative of the whole arc of the film, in 18 minutes."
He also spoke out about other 3D conversions, and the enormous amount of work that is going into Titanic's 3D conversion.
"I'm very much against conversion, for films that have a choice, but I do believe that there are some titles, think of your 10 or 20 favorite movies of all time, that I think should be converted to 3D, but it has to be done right. By the time we're finished, we'll have spent 60 weeks and about $18 million, working with 300 artists between two companies. It's an extremely labor-intensive process. I've got a team of three technical people within our company, who look at every image, several times over, and give notes based on what they know. They know their way around 3D very well, so they process it and bring it up to me in two or three or four-hour sessions, where I'm going through, frame by frame, multiple times, until the depth is worked out. Even then, it's not perfect. It's 2.99D, it's not really 3D. The point I'm trying to make is most conversions which are done in a hurry-up way in post-production, are 2.4D."
After a brief introduction, we put on our glasses and watched the footage. The first scene was from the beginning of the film, where we see the masses of people boarding the ship. Right off the bat, we're brought into the picture, as the first thing we see is a massive crate coming towards us before panning over to the passengers waiting to embark on the Titanic. We then see Rose (Kate Winslet), Cal (Billy Zane), and their entourage arrive, where Rose says the ship isn't all that impressive. The next scene is where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is all dressed up, looking as uncomfortable as ever in his new monkey suit, waiting for Rose to arrive. The third scene is from the party down below deck, where Jack shows Rose how the other half lives, followed by Rose getting scolded from Cal the next morning. Next up is the famous scene where Jack takes Rose to the front of the ship, which looks as stunning as ever in this new 3D version. The last four scenes show the arc of destruction on the ship. The fifth scene is where the iceberg is first discovered, and the sixth shows Rose frantically looking for Jack, along with that interesting segment where she hacks off Jack's handcuffs. The last two scenes are simply gorgeous in 3D, showing the chaos which ensues with passengers fleeing for the lifeboats, all while the band continues to play, and the last scene with the ship vertically sinking into the ocean. The last scene in particular is probably worth the price of 3D admission on its own, when Titanic hits theaters next April. As James Cameron mentioned before, they spent a lot of time making sure this looked as beautiful as it could, and that level of commitment shines through every frame. This isn't gimmicky 3D. This isn't break-the-plane shock value 3D. This is, simply put, James Cameron 3D, at its finest.
"We're not changing the film. The film that's coming out is the same. That's what people respond to, on an emotional level, and it's there."
"I don't feel that I need to rework the film. When we pushed the deadline, and released it at Christmas, which was a joint decision with ourselves, Fox, and Paramount at the time, it was the wisest thing we could have done. It gave us a chance to finish the film properly. We really had time in the cutting room to get it right and fine tune it. What we're doing now, with the conversion process, is trying not to reinvent the film, artistically, but just show, frame by frame, what the movie would have looked like if we would have shot it in 3D. Some would argue that's an artistic change, in and of itself, but from my perspective, as a filmmaker, every time I do a shot, I try to put depth in a shot. I try to enhance the depth beyond the characters, using lighting tools, all of that enhancing a sense of depth, in a 2D film. I was trying to make a 3D movie, even when I was making a 2D movie."
"The first thing we did in the process was create a digital master of the film, a 4k master. When we come out in April, it won't be exclusive to 3D screens. That will be a majority of the screens, but it will also be out in 2D. The 2D is going to be a better print than anything we could have done at the time."
One of the biggest gripes most moviegoers have with 3D is how dark the presentation is, compared to any 2D movie. The footage we saw did not follow that trend, thankfully. Obviously, you do lose a bit of brightness just by putting on the glasses, but the footage we saw isn't drastically darker, like most 3D movies are. James Cameron spoke to that issue, saying the darkness is usually due to movie theaters dimming the projector lamps so they won't burn out as quickly, a practice which James Cameron wants to stop.
"We're promising the audience a premium experience and we, collectively, in the movie industry and the exhibition community, have to protect the value of that premium experience, if they're going to charge more money. One of the ways they have to do that, is the light levels of the projectors. The technology is very straight-forward. These light levels are very easily achieved, but there's a cost to it. What the exhibitors do is they turn the brightness on the lamps down, to preserve the lamp, because they're so expensive. They can't do that. They have to keep it up at what it's rated for. You can't be taking away with one hand while giving with the other. You shouldn't have to decide if you want to see a brighter movie or a 3D movie. It's not a technological issue, it's a business issue, and it's a problem."
Like James Cameron and many other moviegoers, I'm not a huge fan of 3D conversions, primarily because there have been so few that are done right. From what I saw today, Titanic's 3D conversion is definitely done right. For those who have only experienced Titanic on Blu-ray or DVD, this new 3D theatrical re-release will simply stun longtime fans, and bring in a whole new audience at the same time. This is definitely a movie that needs to be seen on the big screen to get the full experience, and this new 3D presentation takes that experience to amazing new levels.
Titanic will hit 2D and 3D theaters nationwide on April 6, 2012.