Creating Avatar

Another thing that came out of those tests was one clear principle Cameron and Pace decided to adhere to: marrying convergence with focus. “That was the one thing that many people said didn’t work,” says Pace. “Those were different rules and styles. Instead of building a system that couldn’t link those two controls together, we said, ‘Let’s do it, and if it works better that they don’t link together, then we’ll drop that function.'”

In addition to the Sony HD cameras, according to Pace, they needed lenses and started asking lens manufacturers if they could provide a workable lens. “They all thought 3D was a novelty—and rightly so 10 years ago,” recalls Pace, who says that Fujinon’s Chuck Lee became “the bridge” between Fujinon and the production’s needs. “Fujinon agreed to build cinema-quality lenses, but altered them to be able to place them close together,” explains Pace. “So we had a lens partner.”

To keep the camera lightweight, they needed to create a field recorder that would capture at 24 fps. At Evertz, VP Joe Cirincione became their ally to create the recorders. “Both Chuck and Joe were able to paint the picture correctly so the factories would come on board and help us,” says Pace. “A lot of that was the Jim Cameron influence. They all delivered on the challenge.” The last crucial piece needed to create the rig was Telecast, which provided a fiber connection between the camera head and the recorder.

“We evolved with the system,” Pace adds. “It went from the Reality Camera System to the FUSION 3D system, for which we support anything from the RED camera to Panasonic, Phantoms—it doesn’t matter to us. The Fusion is the architecture and the methodology the camera uses to create stereo, no longer tied to a specific camera or lens. The FUSION is quieter, faster and more accurate.”

The FUSION 3D camera system not only allows cinematographers to choose the cameras and lenses they want to use, but also it’s dynamic, not requiring a locked-off or static system. “It’s gotten much more equal to 2D filmmaking,” says Pace.

In addition to Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep, the 3D cameras and rigs got a try-out on two other films. When director Robert Rodriguez expressed an interest in using it for Spy Kids, Cameron allowed it. Likewise, the FUSION 3D camera system was first used for director Eric Brevig’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. “Each one of these was proof of concept,” says Pace. “We were getting the chance to prove how great the system would be for a major motion picture.”

Adds Pace, “One of the things that was important to me was that the design of the camera had to be available to any filmmaker. As a coinventor of the system, I didn’t want to build a camera that would do a single film. The other filmmakers [who used the system] were part of the evolution of the system, and that was helpful to me.”