To celebrate the forthcoming re-release of Titanic to mark the 15th anniversary of its original release, and the centenary of the famous vessel's maiden and last voyage in the Atlantic on April 15th 1912. Twentieth Century Fox granted myself an exclusive look at eight scenes from the second biggest grossing film in history in the new 3D format. Following this there was a brief Q&A with the producer of both Titanic and Avatar, Jon Landau, the long time collaborative partner of James Cameron. Here is a review of that footage and the brief time with Mr. Landau ('please call me Jon')
The footage we see did mark out a Reader's Digest version of the movie, a bite size form of the 194 minutes of Titanic. What initially hits you of the footage, is how clean the film looks now in a digital form shot so cleanly and properly. The first scene we see is of when Rose (Kate Winslet) is about to board the vessel and she speaks of not knowing what the fuss is all about; the depth is so lush, you forget how vast the film was in its original form - the last great Hollywood epic that was built from scratch; an 800ft set built in Mexico, hundreds of extras on set every day, the making of the film had enough worries and material for a film of itself. There were many fears for the film's release, and yet the sentiment of the film and the benefit of a narrative story with universal appeals plus a unique female character that was inspiring to young female cinemagoers. It was these females who kept going back to see the film not only for inspiration from Rose, but also to fawn over Jack, played winningly by Leonardo DiCaprio.
After the footage, the first question was what would you have done now if you were shooting Titanic in terms of stock?
JL: If we were doing it today, we would shoot the film in 3D. James wanted to but we did not have the technology, so the reason we are re-releasing it is that we feel that there is an appetite to see it again on the big screen. In regards to the 3D release, we are giving people the option, as we are re-releasing the 2D also, yet the 3D will be the archival master of our film for years to come. Yet we feel the narrative storytelling is a selling point, and the ability to use 3D allows the audience the 'transport of experience' and to escape thanks to the storytelling, the characters and the performances.
What was the task of changing it to 3D?
JL: It was a mammoth task, every shot of the film is now a visual shot, every frame (24 per second) had to be looked at in terms of stereo depth processing. It surprises me how films release a 3D format in conjunction with their original 2D release, as they must only have six weeks to turn it around, and sometimes I feel that is the detriment to their product. We had 60 weeks to work on the conversion, and before that we had a year and a half of research and talks with vendors about the possibility of converting; the wonderful thing about conversion is that it is a creative process that uses technological tools, so we have not gone into the film editing it and doing a directors cut, we are converting not changing. We had 450 people working full time on the film; defining space and figuring out where objects sat in the shot. We used $18m on this conversion, more of a budget than some films.
What was the hardest shots for 3D?
JL: The toughest scene to actually do for example, was the scene where Jack joins Rose for dinner at the captain's table, there is so many objects on the table and so much attention to detail in the original production in the foreground and background, that to figure out which depth a glass should sit in. And also close-ups, because our faces have depth, so sometimes a face looks bloated or a nose may look flatter than they appear. However, the audience came first so we had to make sure the sentiment of the film was not lost.
Why do you feel 3D is getting the wrong end of the stick of late?
JL: I think not every film needs to be in 3D, you look at a film like The Artist is black and white, and silent and it is just as powerful a movie. I feel part of the problem are the glasses, they are part of a deterrent. So I have gone to the glasses' manufacturers asking them to think of it as an opportunity, to make them cooler, classier and more aesthetic value to when you are sitting there. Because 3D is becoming more applicable to our lives as it appears in our homes, computers and mobile devices, so why not make it better viewing experience. I also don't think 3D is the future, for me we have to try and make a move to 48 frames per second; which will give us a crisper, sharper look giving the audience a heightened sense of reality and transform the exhibition experience. I think Peter [Jackson] is doing it for The Hobbit, so that will be exciting - and Peter is thinking of returning to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and convert them for 3D also.
What is the future for you and Mr.Cameron?
JL: Well we are working on the Avatar sequels, we have recently leased a facility for 5 years but we have built in-house a building for the technical, post production crew so they are a part of the collaborative process. We learned so much from Avatar to help us with the Titanic conversion than you realised; 3D is not the be all and end all in action sequences because of the sharp editing, 3D is key in dialogue scenes where the nuance of performance can still be captured and still grab the audience. And we dont want to own the rights to 3D filmmaking, we invite Steven [Spielberg] and Peter [Jackson] to learn from us as we are all storytellers and we want to push and improve the future of film.
Here is the trailer for the re-release out on 6th April 2012