LOS ANGELES —
It took 12 years for his next dramatic feature to hit theaters, the sci-fi sensation "Avatar," whose success turned the new novelty of digital 3-D into a frenzy for Hollywood. Studios hurtled into 3-D action shoots or, to the dismay of fans and critics, did hasty, ugly 3-D conversions of 2-D movies that gave the format a bad rap.
As "Avatar" set the standard for movies shot in 3-D, "Titanic" may raise the bar for movies converted from 2-D. Distributors 20th Century Fox and Paramount spent $18 million on the conversion and digital remastering, with Cameron overseeing a team of 300 people who spent 60 weeks on a frame-by-frame reconstruction to add the illusion of depth.
The results are dazzling, the images of the shipwreck now presented as though the audience is right there watching alongside.
Cameron had thought about a 3-D "Titanic" for the past decade and eventually settled on April's centennial of the 1912 shipwreck as the ideal time to re-release the film. It opens April 4, in advance of the April 14 anniversary.
In 2005, Cameron already was showing 3-D footage of the film to theater owners at a convention, where he and "Star Wars" creator George Lucas were among filmmakers pitching the notion of converting older movies.
"'Titanic's' a no-brainer," Cameron said. "It's a timeless film, it's visually sumptuous, it was shot in a way that's very conducive to 3-D. I've always been trying to do 3-D in a way, by moving the camera, by shooting with shorter lenses so you get deeper focus and you're more aware of the background. All these ways that you enhance it, even when you're shooting in 2-D. So the 3-D conversion actually brought all that out."