#JamesCameron has announced that he is working on 3D technology to enable viewers to watch Avatar 2 in 3D, without the need for those tacky glasses. Despite his skill set lying more in the directorial realm than engineering, Cameron is eager to deliver on his promise that the "bitchin'" #Avatar sequels will make fans "shit yourself with your mouth wide open".
The original 2009 film was a showcase of groundbreaking 3D technology, amazing audiences with its technical capabilities but leaving reviewers less than impressed with its unoriginal narrative. With a pushed-back premiere date of 2018, the pressure is on for Cameron to deliver another stereoscopic masterpiece almost a decade after the first film's release.
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Cameron is intending on shooting in 48fps, like The Hobbit films. However, the fast frame rates in Peter Jackson's trilogy caused headaches and nausea for some viewers. Cameron was quick to clarify his intended use of current high frame rate technology for the sequels :
"I think [high frame rates] is a tool, not a format. I think it’s something you want to weave in and out and use it when it soothes the eye, especially in 3D during panning, movements that [create] artefacts that I find very bothersome. I want to get rid of that stuff, and you can do it through high frame rates."
So, can it be done? And more importantly: is James Cameron the person to do it?
Don't We Already Have That Technology?
Technically, glasses-free technology does exist. Unfortunately, it's still in its infancy, and has many limitations. Last year, Samsung introduced the SUHD 8K TV, the first 3D TV that doesn't require special glasses. Despite the exciting glasses-less feature, the 3D picture quality is less than impressive, and certainly not anywhere near the quality that we'd expect from Avatar. Not to mention that while 110 inches is massive for a TV, it's a dwarf compared to theatre screens.
Researchers last year made advances in hologram technology using small crystals which could be adapted for 3D televisions. However, the quality is predicted to be equal to a standard definition TV - nowhere near the "bitchin'" quality James Cameron demands.
Can It Be Done In Time?
As with all tech, it's difficult to predict where 3D will be in the future. The technology doesn't seem to be growing at an incredibly fast pace, but there's still no way to tell for sure how quickly technology will advance in the next couple of years.
The good news is that a team from MIT have created a prototype called Cinema 3D, which claims to be making glasses-free 3D theatre a reality sooner than we expected. Current 3D televisions use something called a "parallax barrier" to produce a 3D effect on screen. However, this doesn't work for the scale of a cinema screen, or the perspective of such a large audience. Cinema 3D uses mirrors and lenses to deliver a consistent high-quality picture to that audience.
The bad news? The prototype is the size of an A4 piece of paper. It also requires a huge amount of resources, and so isn't yet financially viable to reproduce at a larger scale, especially commerically. Still, it's a good start for MIT. Better yet, it's a great launch point for James Cameron to start his own foray in to the world of science.
Will 3D Still Be a Thing in 2018?
With attendance for 3D film screenings dropping, it seems that audiences are growing tired of this expensive gimmick. But Doctor Strange may have breathed new life in to the technology. Lauded as visually stunning and a truly impressive example of appropriate and creative use of 3D, this is one film that justifies that extra pricey ticket. That's means good news for the future of 3D films.
Of course, if James Cameron doesn't manage to pull off this technological feat in time, he could always push back the release date yet again. What's another year?
Do you think James Cameron will be able to deliver glasses-free 3D technology?