Avatar was a lot of things. It remains the single most financially successful movie ever made and it was a visual masterpiece, largely thanks to massive pushes for innovation from director James Cameron. The filmmaker has constantly surpassed the boundaries of making movies through technical advances during his career. And for that reason, he was recently honored at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers' Centennial Gala. During the event, he talked a bit about his upcoming Avatar sequels and some innovations he is working toward, like 3D without glasses.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with James Cameron at the event. He was given an honorary membership Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers on Friday night during the Centennial Gala, an high honor which has been awarded to filmmakers like Walt Disney and George Lucas in the past. On the red carpet, the director spoke with THR, discussing what technical innovations he is planning on implementing in his four Avatar sequels.
"HDR, 4K for native stereo reduction, all the plethora of things we can do with CG that we couldn't do or were so difficult. I'm going to need a lot of water [simulations], dynamics sims. And merging water, air, fire, all that sort of stuff together into complex simulations is going to be essential for the Avatar films. Movies are going to look better than they've ever looked. They already do and they are going to continue [to look better]. Anything we can imagine, we can put on the screen."
We have heard before that at least one of the upcoming Avatar movies will largely take place underwater and based on what James Cameron said there, that very much sound like it could be the case. It also sounds like he is going to continue to really push the boundaries of CGI, which was a key element to the success of the first Avatar. During his acceptance speech, James Cameron elaborated on some of his more broad plans for innovation.
"I'm going to push. Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range and high frame rates - the things we are working toward. I'm still very bullish on 3D, but we need brighter projection, and ultimately I think it can happen - with no glasses. We'll get there."
Avatar made a lot of its money because many people felt the need to see the movie in 3D or in premium IMAX formats, which helps to bolster the box office. Some people don't like 3D partially because of the cost, but also partially because it can cause some discomfort. Being able to do 3D without glasses could possibly help with that and would no doubt help make the illusion more effective. The director also talked a bit about the technical aspects, specifically high frame rates (HFR) that can help make this happen.
"I think [high frame rates] is a tool, not a format. I think it's something you want to weave in and out and use it when it soothes the eye, especially in 3D during panning, movements that [create] artifacts that I find very bothersome. I want to get rid of that stuff, and you can do it through high frame rates. In terms of that kind of hyper clarity, there may be some films that benefit from it. But I feel you still have to have a little bit of that veil of unreality that comes with [today's commonly used] 24 frames per second. This is my conclusion now. I don't think you do it wall-to-wall, I think you do it where you need it."
Given that the original Avatar grossed a staggering $2.7 billion worldwide, it shouldn't come as any surprise that a sequel, or four in this case, are getting made. It is definitely surprising that it took this long to get them off the ground, but now that we have a sense of some of what James Cameron is looking to do, at least technically speaking, and since he had to write four movies that are all going to be shooting simultaneously, it sort of makes sense. As of right now, Avatar 2 is scheduled to hit theaters in December 2018, and the three sequels will follow in December of 2020, 2022 and 2023.