kottke.org posts about James Cameron

James Cameron Scientifically Tests if Jack Could Have Fit on the Door at the End of Titanic

James Cameron is not one for half-measures. When making Titanic, he used every image and description of the ship he could lay his hands on to build accurate sets & models and financed 12 dives to the ship’s actual wreckage on the bottom of the ocean floor to gather footage to use in the film. For the mega-blockbuster’s 25th anniversary, Cameron has returned his attention to Titanic, to scientifically test the fan theory that there was enough room on the door for Jack at the end of Titanic (see the video above).

In order to reexamine Jack’s final moments, Cameron enlisted help from a team of scientists and two stunt people to test four different scenarios to examine whether two people could have shared the door.

“Jack and Rose are able to get on the raft, but now they’re both submerged in dangerous levels of freezing water,” Cameron explains as the stunt people prove it.

Meanwhile in another example, Cameron details, “Out of the water, violent shaking was helping him and projecting it out, he could’ve made it pretty long, like hours.”

If you can stand the forced-cheer morning show banter, there’s a bit more footage of Cameron and the testing from Good Morning America:

Cameron’s ultimate conclusion: “Jack might’ve lived, but there’s a lot of variables.”


James Cameron goes for a swim

Director James Cameron is now the record holder for deepest solo dive after his submarine, “Deepsea Challenger” made it to the bottom of the Mariana Trench a couple hours ago. The sponsors of the expedition are James Cameron, Rolex, and National Geographic making me think this will turn into a film someday. Another fact which makes it seem like I’m making this all up, which I’m not, is Paul Allen is live-Tweeting the entire thing.

I’ve been holding on to this really amazing interactive infographic of the Mariana Trench for a long time, and now is the perfect time to share it. The deepest part of the Trench is called Challenger Deep, a name Tolkien certainly would have created if he’d ever finished his pirate adventure.


Avatar sequels

James Cameron has announced that there will be not one but two sequels to Avatar, scheduled for 2014 and 2015.


The science of Avatar

James Cameron spoke about the science of Avatar at Caltech last month; Discovery has a summary.

“We tried to make it not completely fanciful,” Cameron told the crowd, which filled the auditorium. “If it was too outlandish, there would be a believability gap.” So while Pandora features floating mountains, that might not be so far-fetched, Cameron said, considering Earth has developed high-speed “bullet” trains that levitate on magnetic fields. Of course, the “reality-based” scenario did have its limits. “We figured that to actually lift mountains, the magnetic field would have to be strong enough to rip the hemoglobin out of your blood,” says Cameron. “But we decided not to go there.”

No word on whether he addressed the Na’vi’s lack of technological advancement.


100 different versions of Avatar

To cover every possible screen and audio option out there, James Cameron produced over 100 different versions of Avatar for distribution to theaters.

In some cases, a single multiplex required different versions for different auditorium configurations. Creative decisions involving light levels also led to additional versions. 3D projection and glasses cut down the light the viewer sees, so “Avatar” also had separate color grades at different light levels, which are measured in foot lamberts. “If we had just sent out one version of the movie, it would have been very dark (in the larger theaters),” Barnett says. “We had a very big flow chart with all of the different steps, so we could send the right media to the right theater.”


Has 3-D already failed?

With the announcement of releasing Avatar only in 3-D, James Cameron was supposed to cram 3-D down the throats of theater owners, movie goers, and everyone else. Except that didn’t quite happen and Avatar is being released in 2-D as well. Kristin Thompson sees other cracks in the plan for 3-D’s future domination of cinema.

One of the main arguments always rolled out in favor of conversion is that theaters can charge more for 3-D screenings. Proportionately, theaters that show a film in 3-D will take in more at the box-office because they charge in the range of $3 more per ticket than do theaters offering the same title in a flat version.

But what happens when, say, half the films playing at any given time in a city are in 3-D? Will moviegoers decide that the $3 isn’t really worth it? Even now, would they pay $3 extra to see The Proposal or Julie & Julia in 3-D? The kinds of films that seem as if they call out for 3-D are far from being the only kinds people want to see. Films like these already make money on their own, unassisted by fancy technology.

Thompson briefly mentions Pixar as well, saying that they don’t seem too keen on 3-D (or at least not as keen as Cameron or Katzenberg). But the zeal with which the 3-D-ness of Up was promoted was tacky and not at all typical of Pixar, a company that spent the last twenty years insisting that their films were not about the technology but about the same things that the makers of live action films were concerned with…real moviemaking stuff. To trumpet this 3-D technology that doesn’t enhance films in anything other than a superficial sense seems like a step backwards for them.


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