James Cameron is not known for the half stuff. In fact, quite the opposite. You’ll probably do a live theatrical re-release of the original avatar Fine at the box office and garnered some hype for its long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. But why stop there? Cameron took it a step further, overseeing 4K HDR resampling.
IGN had a chance to speak with the director about revisiting the 2009 film and how he retooled it to take full advantage of modern cinema technology.
“I was a little nervous before we started the process that wouldn’t hold up, because there are a lot of big-effects movies out there these days,” Cameron told IGN. “But I’m not nervous now…I’m a bit shocked by how great she looks.”
Thanks to modern projectors that support High Dynamic Range, Avatar remaster has been able to address a common problem with 3D movies: “It’s brighter on the screen, which is always a problem in 3D because you’re wearing glasses that filter out half the light. So screen brightness is a big deal. Extremely important to enjoy.
“High frame rate is available; Cameron explained that we use it as an authoring tool to enhance some 3D images, but we don’t apply it extensively just as a format. “Atmos 9.1 audio was not available at the time, so we remixed and reworked the movie using a better audio format. It literally sounds and sounds better than it did before.”
Many of the improvements made to the converter were facilitated by the quality of Avatar’s visual effects when it was first released. “Weta did a good job at the time, doing their job in high dynamic range anyway – even though the projection couldn’t handle it at the time – we didn’t have to do much,” he said. And while higher frame rates are a divisive topic among movie fans, Cameron and the company apply it in moderation. “We created a new one [48-frame-per-second] Built-in frames to smooth out some sassy and some quick camera movements — while chasing a snake, chasing a predator, and things like that — to improve the stereo experience. “
Avatar isn’t the only Cameron movie to get a remake, as Titanic will get the same treatment on its 25th anniversary next year. While the avatar was always supposed to appear in 3D, the Titanic had to undergo a complete transformation. “Most of the diversions were done pretty cheaply and I think we spent $18 million on 3D rendering of Titanic, so it was handcrafted in 3D,” the director said. “The goal was to make it indistinguishable from the original 3D imaging, and I did so much 3D imaging that I knew what I was asking for.”
You don’t exactly need an MBA to figure out why two of the highest-grossing films of all time have been re-releases in cinemas. Avatar’s return to theaters makes a lot of sense considering how long the sequel has been waiting for.
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“Obviously our goal isn’t just to put it out and make a lot of money, it’s to get it publicized as…think of it like ‘Avatar Season,’ until a new avatar movie comes out a decade later,” Cameron told us. “Lots of young fans never got to see him in the theater! Whether they liked the movie, were indifferent about it, or just knew about it, they really didn’t. I have seen Unless you see it in the cinema. And this would be true even for the people who saw him at the time. Memory fades to the power of experience in the theater.”
Cameron realizes that it’s been a long time since a lot of people saw the first avatar.
“I don’t think you should treat it as homework,” he said. “Go and enjoy it, and maybe if you know the movie, remember, refresh your memory about what’s going on here… Meet Pandora, with Jake and Neytiri, and get ready for where the new story will take you.”
Within the world of Avatar, The Way of Water takes place long after the events of the first movie. “We’re following [Jake and Neytiri] Forward in time, 15 years to where they have a family made up of pre-teens and teens. More of a family dynamic. It’s not a hallmark of the Disney family. It’s a very dysfunctional family dynamic, but ultimately there is a core out there that they all draw their strength from. I think that’s the thing that’s fundamentally different from the first.”
Cameron’s latest two sequels are Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Aliens, undeniable classics that set an impossibly high standard for their respective franchises. What should we expect from following Avatar?
Cameron assured us: ‘I guarantee you you won’t be able to foresee it.’ “What people hate the most is going to see a movie and saying ‘Oh… Predictable’. That’s unpredictable, I don’t think. I challenge anyone to predict where this story is going.”
A newly remastered 4K HDR Avatar release opens in theaters this week, followed by Avatar: The Way of Water on December 16. And for more on Avatar, check out James Cameron’s thoughts on why 3D TVs are fading away, and Ubisoft’s upcoming video game, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.
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