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James Cameron To Develop 3-D Camera For Mars Rover 143

Posted by timothy
from the don't-you-mean-james-cameraman dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Computerworld reports that movie director James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, is working with Malin Space Science Systems Inc. to build an updated 3-D camera that will be installed on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity if completed in time, to be the machine's 'science-imaging workhorse,' says Michael Malin, who is working on the camera team. Malin delivered two cameras to be installed on the rover's main mast; however NASA has provided Malin with funding to work with Cameron to build alternatives to these two cameras. 'The fixed focal length [cameras] we just delivered will do almost all of the science we originally proposed. But they cannot provide a wide field of view with comparable eye stereo,' he says. 'With the zoom [cameras], we'll be able to take cinematic video sequences in 3-D on the surface of Mars.'"
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James Cameron To Develop 3-D Camera For Mars Rover

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:22PM (#32053248)
    I don't see why James Cameron's involvement is necessary. Stereoscopic imaging is pretty simple technology, and it's not like James Cameron invented it. What's so hard about turning a fixed-focal-length stereo camera into one that has zoom lenses? And why would you employ a film director, rather than an optical engineer to do it?
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BradleyUffner (103496) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:26PM (#32053274) Homepage

    And why would you employ a film director, rather than an optical engineer to do it?

    For the publicity. NASA is in serious need of some.

  • Sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:27PM (#32053282) Homepage Journal

    Malin used to work at Pixar. He's the absolute right person to do this. He doesn't really need Cameron, just give him the assignment.

    What bothers me about this, though, is that this science project has to pander to the public with eye-candy. Because we can't sell them on the science. I think this says something about our national lack of education, and something about the public having become a massively parallel knee-jerk driven by the lies fed to them daily on Fox TV and the trash TV that is more important to them than mankind's future.

    Bruce

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:33PM (#32053312)
    Speaking of James Cameron and publicity, it's bizarre that the summary mentions him as the director of Avatar and Titanic, but neglects to mention his seminal works; Aliens and Terminator.
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:38PM (#32053348)

    I thought that was strange too. They mention his two shittiest films, but neglect his two best films.

  • Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:48PM (#32053420) Homepage Journal

    What bothers me about this, though, is that this science project has to pander to the public with eye-candy. Because we can't sell them on the science. I think this says something about our national lack of education, and something about the public having become a massively parallel knee-jerk driven by the lies fed to them daily on Fox TV and the trash TV that is more important to them than mankind's future.

    No Bruce its the same all around the world. I don't think it is education as such. I am sure there are plenty of highly educated managers who would not care about the science and perhaps be inspired by a good picture in passing.

    Immersion is a good way of catching people's attention. Cameron did that with Avatar and found new viewers for a simple action+SF story. Maybe he can do the same with Mars. Maybe someone can sell monitors just for viewing the latest from Mars in 3D. I don't think data on air temperature or organics in the soil will ever do it for the majority.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:06AM (#32053530) Homepage Journal

    I don't know the level of detail that he was involved in, but Cameron did have a hand [wikipedia.org] in developing the camera and he's used it in several of his movies (including Avatar).

    How much actual technical help was he? No idea, but it is called the Pace-Cameron Fusion Camera System. It must be pretty good as well considering both the amazing job it did for Avatar and the fact that the technology is going to be used in other films [wikipedia.org] as well.

    And, as others mentioned, dropping his name is good for publicity and is probably designed to give the public something to look forward to from the next rover.

  • Why (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:24AM (#32053642)

    I strongly suspect that when they say "James Cameron" they mean "a team of optics engineers who worked on Avatar which Cameron nominally leads."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @12:33AM (#32053706)

    Several people got modded up for questioning why Cameron was "hired" or "designing" the rig. He's not been hired and no one said he's designing anything. He's promoting the idea with NASA to help get people more excited about space. The Mars rover shots did more to get people excited about space than anything since the Moon landing. He's also going to be advising the team but that's legitimate given how much experience he has with 3D camera rigs, it goes back to Terminator 3D, I worked on it and he does know the subject. He also knows the best people in the field for helping them design the rig and software so he can make contacts for them. It's a growing field but 10 years ago the experts were on a very short list. I worked on several 3D productions and you always used to see a lot of the same faces. He's offering free help and he's better informed than most people here seem to give him credit for. Avatar has the best 3D ever and his pushing to make it the best was the reason why. Focusing strictly on hard science is a great way to drive people away. Also 3D images have technical value. Ever try to drive a car with one eye closed? In the future when rovers travel faster and further stereo vision systems will become more important. Now is a good time to develop the technology. Good on Jim for diving in. NASA needs all the help it can get if they are to have any hope of hanging onto their budget as money tightens up.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @01:41AM (#32054086)

    They are the two most recent films he's done. One of them came out mere months ago - hell, it's probably still in theaters in some locations - and got a lot of attention in the press. Both films outsold Aliens and Terminator by a fair margin. In fact, Avatar and Titanic hold the #1 and #2 spots on the list of highest-grossing movies ever created.

    And just to give a value-added anecdote, I wasn't aware he was the director of Aliens (which I've never seen) or the Terminator films. The purpose of naming a couple of Cameron's works in the article is to make people who read it recognize: "Oh yeah, James Cameron, he did those movies. I know of him." The best examples to use to that effect are precisely Avatar and Titanic, which have made the biggest splash worldwide. The relative artistic merits of his films have no bearing upon whether the reader will recognize James Cameron's name in association with said films.

  • Re:Sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kramulous (977841) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:37AM (#32054294)

    What bothers me is why a 3D camera? That gimmick will be gone soon ... particularly if active stereo hangs around. And what really is the value add?

    Why not go with LiDAR? Datasets will be smaller and far more accurate with lots of additional data dimensions. Point clouds are fabulous to work with.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@nOSPaM.Gmail.com> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:44AM (#32054506)

    Not really that bizarre, Avatar had all that 3D stuff and for Titanic he got underwater footage of the actual ship deep underwater which are both more related to the subject than Aliens or Terminator.

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