Nestled in the middle of a newly built but eerily empty science park on the outskirts of Tianjin is a treasure trove of 3D technology and innovation.
The project is a joint venture between the Chinese Government and Cameron Pace Group - founded by film director James Cameron, who lives in New Zealand, and cinematographer Vince Pace. Cameron Pace Group develops 3D technology, aiming to improve the quality, simplify its use and lower costs.
The Californian business, based in Burbank, partnered the Chinese Government two years ago in an effort to bring world-class 3D technology to local filmmakers and cinemagoers.
The chief executive of the China operation, Gordon Cheng, says the joint venture is expanding the deployment of top 3D technologies that have been developed by Cameron Pace over the years, as well as moving further into different fields across film, television and gaming.
"Also, very importantly, we want to bring high quality images in terms of the techniques used in the film and content making process in China. There were over 700 films made in China last year, but we think there is a lot of room for improvement and we want to bring the best technologies - in this case 3D - to work in China."
China is on track to become the world's largest box office within the next five years, after taking nearly US$5 billion in receipts last year.
"Demand for 3D content, in particular, is growing rapidly and China now has the largest 3D audience in the world," says Cheng.
"Right now more than 70 per cent of screens in China are 3D-capable and we're seeing more and more 3D films coming out. We have an important role to make sure the quality is up to standard, otherwise it actually hurts the 3D industry. "This is what we've seen in the United States over the past three or four years. The market has declined and a major reason is the large number of poorly made 3D films. It shouldn't be a gimmick, it should be immersive."
With a growing appetite for 3D content but a distinct lack of talent, technology and knowhow, China was an opportunity for Cameron Pace to take a foothold - and the Government agreed. "The Government has helped by partially funding the venture and of course in terms of getting the approvals and certifications required," says Cheng. "The Government is trying to achieve two things with this venture. The first is to promote the cultural and media aspects of China and Tianjin. We hope to attract more talent to the industry, and more filmmakers making high quality 3D films.
"The second is to promote technologies in the region - this area is known for developing key components for spacecraft, there's clean technology, a super computer and companies like Samsung doing their research and development here."
For Cameron Pace, R&D remains based in the United States, but Cheng says a shift towards China should be on the cards in the future.
"The long-term vision of this joint venture is that eventually we will do more and more R&D in partnership with our US-based team. What we hope to do is combine so we can jointly develop top quality, price efficient products - that's how we combine the best of both worlds."
Cameron Pace has extended its R&D from film and diversified into television, advertising and gaming. The company builds the technology, often custom-made to suit the different platforms.
In Tianjin, Cameron Pace demonstrated some developments, showing how the technology can work everywhere from sports sidelines to Cirque du Soleil. The results, when done properly, are stunning.
Cheng says he hopes the development of techniques and technology will not only benefit the film making industry, but also the vast consumer industry. But it's clear that film remains king at Cameron Pace.
And he hopes in the future his company will have the opportunity to partner with Wellington-based Weta Workshop.
"We would like to build a platform within China which comprises the best players around the world, and involves firms like Weta and other top New Zealand technology companies in the film making industry," he says.