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In the wreck of the Titanic

James Cameron made a fascinating 3D film about the wreck of the Titanic, which is to be shown in Imax cinemas. The project would not have been possible without the use of the latest technologies.

James Cameron has always been one of those directors who like to realize their artistic visions, often with the latest technological innovations. That was also the case when Cameron made an Imax film about the wreck of the Titanic. For "Ghosts of the Abyss" Cameron and his film crew penetrated into the wreck of the Titanic.

With a heavy, bulky Imax camera, shooting in these ocean depths would not have been possible, so Cameron had to find an alternative recording method. Together with Sony, Cameron's team developed a comparatively light 3D HD camera that basically consists of two modified Sony HD cameras. With this special 3D HD camera and several standard definition cameras, the team recorded over 900 hours of material.

James Cameron's brother Mike spent a good three years looking for and developing a technology that would allow filming equipment to penetrate the wreck of the Titanic and shoot there in a way that was previously not possible. He developed two remotely controllable underwater vehicles, so-called ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles), which are equipped with their own powerful light sources. During the filming, James and Mike Cameron were able to control the two ROVs via joystick from the submarines, which they and the film crew used to dive into the depths.

The new 3D HD cameras were mounted on the outside of the submarines manned by the film crew. The remote-controllable vehicles, on the other hand, were equipped with SD cameras, because the ROVs were supposed to be as light as possible so that they could move around easily inside the wreck. 800 m of fiber optic cables were used to transmit the video signals from the ROVs to the "mother ships". Standard definition video cameras were also used in the submarines themselves.

At the end of the ambitious expedition down into the wreckage of the Titanic, Cameron had collected over 900 hours of material in various video standards that had to be viewed in the post-production at Modern Videofilm and combined to make a film.

The post-production of the material at Modern Videofilm was almost as time-consuming as the shooting in the depths of the sea. A particular challenge for the team at Modern Videofilm was to create a 3D effect for the SD material obtained with the ROVs. Producer Tashjian comments: "Since the film is shown in Imax 3D cinemas, we couldn't just cut standard definition material in between." The team therefore decided to show this material in windows that were only around 10 to a maximum of 50 percent covered the canvas. Despite the smaller projection surface, the design problem remained, to combine 2D and 3D images coherently with one another.

“We had to give the SD material depth,” explains Tashjian, and goes on to say: “We were able to achieve the 3D appearance by overlapping images and splitting them against the 3D background. After all, that created a certain impression of depth. "

Another challenge in post-production was the many different formats of the source material: It was not only available in standard definition and 3D-HD, but also in 24P / HD, 30i, 60i and a number of other formats. "We used the Quantel iQ system to transfer all of the material into the same format," says producer Tashjian.

Within a project, iQ can load and process a wide variety of formats, from low-res to SD, HD, 3D-HD and 2K. There are no quality restrictions, because iQ always maintains the highest possible resolution.

Modern Videofilm sees another great advantage of the iQ system in the system architecture, because it allows 3rd party systems to access iQ. Images and sequences stored on iQ can be color corrected by connecting iQ to the color correction system. The images are output from iQ to the mainframe of the color correction system, projected onto a screen, then color corrected with the external system and then transferred back to iQ and recorded. The individual scenes can be color corrected in real time, so you don't have to wait for the results from the film laboratory.

Colorist Scott Klein was responsible for this on "Ghosts of the Abyss". He worked with a DaVinci 2K Plus in a projection theater that Modern Video operates specifically for such purposes and thus handles the entire color correction.

Says James Cameron of Modern Video's post production methods: “The color grading of“ Ghosts of the Abyss ”in real time and on a big screen and even in HD was very impressive to me. After more than 20 years in which I had to grapple with the imponderables of the photochemical process when doing color correction, this way of working now feels like you've been catapulted straight from the Middle Ages into the 21st century. I really enjoyed working like this «.

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