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James Cameron: Filmmaking Tech Enables Creativity

The filmmaker explains the workflow improvements enabling his 'Avatar' sequels.

James Cameron pairs his love of exploration with his love of filmmaking in the new documentary Deepsea Challenge 3D, which follows the filmmaker on a record-breaking deep-sea dive that led to the discovery of 68 new species.

“We always knew this film was not going to be about finding a 60-foot giant squid or any bizarre fantasy creatures. We knew it had to be about the exploration gene: what drives people to explore and what it takes to do it,” Cameron tells Fast Company’s Co.Create about the film. “[The deep sea] is the last great frontier on earth, and we know very little about it.”

Breaking new frontiers is nothing new for one of the most successful filmmakers of all-time, who ushered in a new era of 3D and motion-capture filmmaking with 2009’s Avatar. “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,” he says of the upcoming Avatar sequels he’s currently working on. “[The technology on the Avatar sequels] won’t be anything revolutionary–it’s just ways to make our pipeline more efficient, more creatively intuitive, and more cost-effective.”

The tech evangelist holds on tightly to his beliefs about the intersection of science and art when it comes to filmmaking. “The tech enables the creativity. That’s what people need to understand,” he 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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