WETA is also working on the year's most highly anticipated 3D film, James Cameron's Avatar. Combining live action, motion captured CGI and a combination of real and virtual sets, Avatar has the potential to be a revolutionary film in the history of cinema. For one thing, Cameron's technology sits right on the bleeding edge, allowing him to see the mix of live action and virtual characters and environments in real-time during shooting. For another, Cameron is directing the whole thing for 3D release - and only 3D release - composing scenes and orchestrating focus changes and camera movements with a 3D (or stereoscopic) presentation in mind. "When most people think of 3-D films, they think first of the gimmick shots - objects or characters flying, floating or poking out into the audience. In fact, in a good stereo movie, these shots should be the exception rather than the rule" Cameron told Variety's David S. Cohen in an interview last year. "Watching a stereo movie is looking into an alternate reality through a window. It is intuitive to the film industry that this immersive quality is perfect for action, fantasy, and animation. What's less obvious is that the enhanced sense of presence and realism works in all types of scenes, even intimate dramatic moments." Iron Man director, Jon Favreau, has described Cameron's film as a "game changer, and in seeing it I think it's the future. I don't think it's a flash in the pan. I think it's going to open up a while new door..."
Avatar isn't the only live-action 3D film to be released this year - the horror films Final Destination 4 and My Bloody Valentine 3D will both be exhibited in 3D, and 3D presentations of the latter have already made six times the box office of the 2D version in the film's opening week in the US. However, Avatar isn't a genre film that relies on 3D effects for its appeal, but the year's biggest blockbuster from one of the world's most admired and ambitious directors. It was Cameron's Terminator 2 that pioneered the use of digital effects, and his Titanic that pioneered the way in which these effects could work in genres beyond sci-fi and action. Other major directors, most notably Hitchcock with Dial M for Murder, did their best to explore how 3D could be employed, not as a gimmick, but as a tool in the filmmaker's artistic arsenal, but the technology was never really good enough. This time, and thanks to the improvements in digital projection, it's mature and ready for a mainstream audience. Avatar could lead us into a future where 3D is, like widescreen or digital surround sound, just something else we take for granted when going to the movies.