Titanic, James Cameron‘s lavish spectacle, released in 1997 and winning 11 of its 14 Oscar nominations, is getting a makeover, courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. At Paramount on Oct. 28, Cameron and producer Jon Landau unveiled 18 minutes of the film that has been converted to 3D after a complete scan and digital restoration of the original negative to a 4K version. Next April, Paramount will release Titanic in both 3D and 2D formats, and with the advent of the 4K version, the picture quality will be as if the film were just created yesterday, and not 15 years ago.
Cameron spoke eloquently about the 3D conversion process, which is taking 300 operatives at Stereo D some 60 weeks to realize at the cost of $18 million. Noting that he is a big fan of the process and would have filmed Titanic stereoscopically if the technology had been available to him at the time, Cameron noted that his film is better viewed in a theatrical setting and not on home video. “It offers the audience a physical presence with a movie,” he said, “that you cannot get viewing it at home.”
Surely, Titanic did well enough in both its theatrical and home video runs in 1997 and 1998, making it the top-grossing film of its time, only later broken by Cameron’s own Avatar. The timing of the release is aimed at the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s maiden voyage, which occurred on April 10, 1912, leaving Southampton, England and stopping briefly in Cherbourg, France before heading into the frozen Atlantic. Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40pm on April 14, sinking about two hours and forty minutes later early on the morning of April 15. The re-release of the film is set now at April 6, 2012.
Certainly, Titanic‘s new incarnation is striking. The picture quality of the test scenes was stellar – very crisp clear images with a 3D image so believable, it disappears into the frame as if one were watching a play. In point, converting movies shot in 2D to 3D has been bumpy the past several years, but Cameron’s team seems to have cracked the formula for creating a winning piece. “It’s about quality control,” he said, underscored by Landau who noted that they are taking this conversion seriously and are working carefully to make sure that it will be the best it can be.
Cameron famously created a 3D camera process with Vincent Pace for Avatar which helped propel that film’s success even beyond that of Titanic. Ostensibly, the Avatar sequels, which Landau noted are already being planned and designed, will be filmed in 3D.
Since making Titanic, which Cameron said was inspired by his love of the oceans and diving, in addition to the film It Happened One Night, the filmmaker has gone back to the 1912 wreckage twice via submersibles and has carefully reviewed details of the wreck and sinking with experts. “We got most of it right,” he said of his original movie. “A few details were off, but only rivet-heads would really notice them.”