Give James Cameron credit: When he wants to do something, even if the technology doesn't exist, he finds a way to make it happen. 


You can offer up any number of the groundbreaking visual effects he's pioneered on several of his blockbuster films — but in terms of engineering, nothing comes close to the Deepsea Challenger sub he created for last month's record dive.


“He’s done something radical,” Peter Girguis, a biological oceanographer at Harvard told the Times. “He’s set aside the conventional wisdom.”


While the sum of its parts is truly a marvel, individual pieces stand out on their own as well. At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show this week, Cameron revealed the new 3-D camera system that he pioneered for the dive. 


“We created a tiny camera that fits in a very small housing to sit out at the end of a camera boom on a one-person sub that was going down to 36,000 feet,” The Hollywood Reporter quoted Cameron as saying. “We developed a 1080p [pixel] camera that was about the size of your thumb that sat inside a little titanium housing, and we generated 3-D from it by essentially putting two housings side by side, because the interocular was small enough."


“We set it out on a pan tilt at the end of a two-meter carbon fiber board so we could actually image the sub while it was shooting new animals and so on," he added. "We used a version of that inside the sub to generate pictures of me flying the sub and what was going on inside and outside.”


In total, the sub has six HD cameras with integrated hard drives, including a Red Epic, which captures IMAX-quality images. Up to nine hours can be recorded total. 


“That kind of miniaturization of cameras is in demand,” Cameron told the site, adding that such tech could even find its way into the next "Avatar" films. "For a gun-and-run action camera, I could see that," he said. 

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

James Cameron created new camera system for trench dive
Director/explorer utilized new thumb-sized 1080p cameras to capture 3-D video from the deepest point on earth.