When director James Cameron chose to transfer the movie that made him the "king of the world" (and a little bit of pocket money as the top grossing movie ever) into 3D and re-release it in cinemas (and now on Blu-ray) he was either tinkering with a masterpiece or shamelessly plundering more funds from the cinemas, depending upon your perspective.
For Cameron though there was only every one goal. To deliver a better film, so we could see all that water around and on Jack that he had worked so hard to bring together in the first place.
Exactly how has Titanic been improved by its transfer to Blu-ray 3D?
We started with a movie that was shot on film in 1996. It was somewhat grainy, the film stock and so on. It was shot on the super 35 process, which uses more of the film frame than what you see when it’s released. It was released in Cinemascope or in that aspect ratio, but there was more information there. When we transferred the film, we created a new 16x9 HD format master, but we did it at 4K. We up-resed it, did image clarification, grain removal and then a beautiful DI process where we just got all the colors and the blacks and everything so rich and perfect.
I love watching the film now. We’ve done all the things that we couldn’t do back then because film and photochemistry is really a very imprecise process. I’m so glad we evolved into fully digital filmmaking now, so the film looks rich and gorgeous. Even setting aside the 3D, the film looks better than it ever looked back in the day when it was first released.
What was your involvement in the film’s re-mastering process for Blu-ray?
I was very involved every step of the way. I worked with the same house team that has been with me for 20 years. But, I also worked with my colourist who did Avatar and he’s also done a couple of my documentary projects and some of my other films that have been remastered recently. We have a really good shorthand and he knows exactly how I like to do things, how I like to set the contrast and the dynamic range and all that. We really had a great team and when we turned our energy to doing Titanic, the film just really popped. It just came to life.
Was there anything that was particularly difficult in the transfer of Titanic to 3D?
Some of the big crowd scenes were tricky. Some of the big crowd scenes that were shot on very long lenses were problematic in the 3D conversion, but we figured out great solutions. We learned a lot as we did it. I was just talking to the guys at Stereo D last night, who are our primary vendor, and they said, “Thank you for making it so hard for us. We learned so much about how to do 3D.” They believe that it really upped their game over the process of converting the film.
Looking back at the filming of Titanic, how did you keep the cast focused during the water scenes?
I always say Leo [DiCaprio] was like a Siamese cat trying to get into the water. I mean, he made a huge production out of getting into the water every time and it didn’t matter. The water could be 80 degrees and it usually was. We put all the breath in afterwards, but he hated to get wet, or he pretended he hated to get wet. It turned out on the last day of shooting, we had to do an underwater scene and he said, “I’m a certified scuba diver.” I wanted to wring his neck. What was all this stuff with the cat and getting into the water?
Do you ever have sleepless nights when you’re shooting a film?
The night before I start any movie, I don’t sleep at all because it’s all running through my head. By the end of that first shooting day, I’m so exhausted, I sleep fine every night after that.
Are you thinking about Blu-ray when you’re making a film now?
There are things in the back of your mind while you’re shooting. Maybe there’s not room for something or maybe you shoot something that’s a little bit of an experiment, a little bit of an excursion beyond what’s scripted. You think, “Well, maybe this’ll be a great discovery.” And we put it in the film. If we don’t, we can always put in the special edition or in the deleted scenes or whatever. There’s always a confidence that somebody somewhere is going to get to see it.
Titanic 3D is available on Blu-ray now.