ABU DHABI // Good storytelling remains the most important aspect of entertainment, even as hi-tech 3D filmmaking takes centre stage, says the director James Cameron.
At a masterclass with an audience of Emirati students and global media executives, Cameron yesterday revealed some secrets behind shooting 3D films such as Avatar, his latest release.
But he said technology should never get in the way of a good story.
"It still begins and ends with storytelling. If you're not telling a great story ... then you're going to fail, no matter how much the technology changes," Mr Cameron said.
The director was speaking on the final day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which was hosted by Abu Dhabi Media, the owner and publisher of The National.
Cameron directed the two highest-grossing films of all time: Avatar, which had worldwide box office takings of US$2.8 billion (Dh10.2bn), and Titanic, which grossed $1.8bn.
Just as shooting films in colour is now commonplace, creating 3D entertainment will one day be as popular, he said.
"We went from silent films to sound films ... we went from black and white to colour," said Mr Cameron. "And now we're making the transition to 3D."
Cameron and a fellow director, Carlos Saldanha, who was director of the popular Ice Age series of films, gave the audience an insight into ways moviemakers should use 3D techniques.
Mr Cameron said the "same basic rules" applied to 3D and 2D filmmaking.
"The trick is to not change how you do cinema for 3D, in the same way that you don't change how you do cinema moving from black and white to colour," he said.
Overuse of 3D effects could diminish the experience, he added.
"You don't want to rip the audience's eyes out of their heads by showing them stuff that is poorly photographed in 3D, or you're going to work against the effect you've created," said Mr Cameron.
"I try to use 3D in a fairly unobtrusive way. [Otherwise] you're just reminding people that they're sitting in a movie theatre with glasses on having a 3D experience."
Mr Saldanha said 3D should not "feel gimmicky". He also outlined some of the visual references he used to create characters for his upcoming computer-animated film Rio.
Nicolas Forzy, a writer and producer based in the UAE, agreed that 3D should not overshadow the plot.
"3D is a tool - it will never replace a good story, it will never save a bad story," he said. "When used right, it can enhance your story ... you've got to use it carefully."
Forzy also agreed that 3D would soon become the norm in entertainment. But he said the "last hurdle" in this was eliminating the need for audiences to wear special glasses.
Forzy recently co-directed a short 3D film for Abu Dhabi Police, which he said was the "first 3D stereoscopic production in Abu Dhabi". The public service film was made to promote safe driving.
"I want to push 3D very much," Forzy said. "The UAE is in a great situation where, because they are not tied down to processes or ways to film and produce, they can leapfrog straight to the cutting edge."