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James Cameron and Michael Bay Talk State of 3-D, Avatar, Dark of the Moon, Video

Thompson on Hollywood By Anthony D'Alessandro | Thompson on Hollywood May 19, 2011 at 8:25AM

Missionary James Cameron turned around Michael Bay's thinking on 3-D: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the result. Anthony D'Alessandro reports on Thursday's presentation with the two men, who showed a 15-minute clip from Dark of the Moon as well as the new 3-D trailer, which will be attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides this weekend (UPDATE: video below):Like two guys passionately conversing about hot-rod cars, directors James Cameron and Michael Bay kibitzed last night about the current state of 3-D and its use in the latter’s upcoming summer tentpole Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The night’s moderator at the Paramount lot presentation, The Hollywood Reporter's Jay Fernandez, introduced the evening with a clip of Bay accepting his 2009 ShoWest Vanguard award in which he slammed the visual format; claiming he would never be a practitioner of it.
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Thompson on Hollywood


Missionary James Cameron turned around Michael Bay's thinking on 3-D: Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the result. Anthony D'Alessandro reports on Thursday's presentation with the two men, who showed a 15-minute clip from Dark of the Moon as well as the new 3-D trailer, which will be attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides this weekend (UPDATE: video below):

Like two guys passionately conversing about hot-rod cars, directors James Cameron and Michael Bay kibitzed last night about the current state of 3-D and its use in the latter’s upcoming summer tentpole Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The night’s moderator at the Paramount lot presentation, The Hollywood Reporter's Jay Fernandez, introduced the evening with a clip of Bay accepting his 2009 ShoWest Vanguard award in which he slammed the visual format; claiming he would never be a practitioner of it.
Bay recalled that a visit to the Avatar set eventually changed his attitude toward 3-D. He was baffled by Cameron’s excitement over obtaining great 3-D algorithms during the shoot. However, Cameron egged Bay to lense Dark of the Moon in 3-D: He fervently adores Bay’s fast sweeping camera work and has longed to see such sequences in 3-D.

Unlike Cameron, who takes his time shooting 3-D and possesses a finesse with the equipment, Bay has little patience for the cumbersome cameras and prefers to shoot rapidly. Thus he refused to be slowed down during Dark of the Moon. He swelled his production ranks (he deployed many of the 3-D Avatar team) and took some chances. One notable shot in the film makes the viewer literally jump off a skyscraper with three windsurfers -- a feat Bay pulled off with a 3-D helmet cam. In the end, Bay kept Dark of the Moon on the same 19-month schedule as 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Now Bay confesses he's a 3-D convert.

It’s apparent that Bay took notes from Cameron on mastering the visual form. Similar to Avatar, the 3-D in Dark of the Moon isn’t "in your face," rather it places the audience in the center of the action-- in the middle of a collapsing skyscraper that’s attacked by a Decepticon, or getting thrown around with Shia LaBeouf as he’s thrusted out of a transforming Bumblebee and pulled back into the driver’s seat.

For a sequel to succeed at the box office, its stakes, in some form, always need to trump its predecessor. In the case of Dark of the Moon, the mindblowing 3-D should satisfy those audiences emptying their wallets for the ride.

Hence, 3-D could experience a boom again this summer at the B.O. after such visual also-rans as The Green Hornet, Drive Angry 3-D and even Cameron’s own production Sanctum.

The cost for good 3-D: $30 million. “That’s the gamble,” said Bay about a film’s potential to click with crowds. “The problem is that so many [studios] have done it badly that the audience is getting turned off by 3-D. “Maybe after they see Dark of the Moon, they will realize how hard we worked to make really good 3-D from day one -- that it wasn’t an afterthought. And that’s the problem word -- many treat 3-D as an 'Afterthought.'”

[Image: Bay on Dark of the Moon set, courtesy of Paramount]

This article is related to: Directors, Franchises, Genres, Video, Box Office, Exhibition, Production , James Cameron, Transformers, Avatar, 3D


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.