James Cameron knows Cirque du Soleil.
Having seen every iteration of the Canadian acrobatic group's performances and watched them from multiple vantage points, the executive producer of “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” said there was one goal above all others in creating this new 3-D presentation: He wanted viewers to see Cirque du Soleil in a way that was completely different from a live, theatrical setting.
“I've seen all the shows, and I've seen all the shows that we've filmed multiple times before we actually started the process of filming the movie, and then I've seen the movie,” Cameron said in a recent one-on-one phone interview with The Oklahoman. “They're different experiences.
“It doesn't matter where the best seat in the house is, and I don't know that there is one, because wherever you are in a Cirque du Soleil show, you're seeing something and missing something, because there's so much going on up on the stage,” he said. “They present these big, moving tableaus, and unless it's a solo act, your eye can't travel fast enough. So you can see the same Cirque du Soleil show four different times and sit in four different audience seats and have a different experience.”
As executive producer and chief camera operator on “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” Cameron worked with director Andrew Adamson (“Shrek,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”) to capture sequences of seven Cirque du Soleil productions — “O,” “Mystere,” “Ka,” “Love,” “Zumanity,” “Viva Elvis” and “Criss Angel Believe” — and pull audiences into new vantage points and perspectives.
Cameron's job was to give moviegoers a view that money could not buy in a live setting.
“You couldn't be up on the stage with the performers, you couldn't be up in the rigging looking down and feeling the vertiginous drop underneath a trapeze artist, or a high-wire or straps artist,” Cameron said. “So we knew there were things we could do that the live (environment) couldn't do, and there were things that live could do that we couldn't do.
“Part of the challenge for me was to get the camera where it was going to tell the story the best,” he said. “I was dealing with a few cameras going into niche places to ferret out the most amazing 3-D experience of what was going on with the individual performers.”
Test of technology
Cameron, who is married to Oklahoma City-born actress Suzy Amis, directed the two most commercially successful films of all time, “Avatar” and “Titanic.”
His work on “Worlds Away” incorporates his patented Fusion Camera System, a system he developed while working on “Avatar” that allows full capture of multiple environments and subjects. Shooting movies and live events such as ballgames and concerts used to require completely different equipment, but Cameron said the Fusion system does it all, and capturing “Worlds Away” allowed him to test its versatility.