Cameron Says Avatar Won't Be Shown the Same Size Everywhere
Most of you may be wondering "what does that mean?" Well, we'll explain exactly what that means. James Cameron recently appeared at a special showing of The Abyss and Aliens in 70mm back-to-back at a theater in Santa Monica last night. I couldn't attend (as I couldn't get tickets), but a scooper over at Ain't It Cool News did and sent over some details from the Q&A with Cameron. The only interesting thing he revealed was that apparently the 3D presentation of Avatar will be shown in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, while the 2D will be in scope, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It's sort of half of an IMAX conversion (I'll explain below).
The report says that "Cameron never thought he'd shoot a new movie in 1.85 ratio, but he loves the way 3D looks in that ratio, so audiences seeing the film in 3D will get a 1.78 presentation versus audiences who see the film in scope (widescreen) in 2D." Flat and scope are the two standard aspect ratios in use today. Typically, scope (the wider ratio) is used for action, so that more of it can be captured and it looks much more epic because it's so wide. Flat (the taller ratio) is usually used for close ups and more personal shots. We've included an example photo of the differences in visual size once the image is projected (see below).
The reason I referenced IMAX earlier is because, if you look at that image above, you'll see that you get to see more of the total image when seeing the "flat" or 1.78 aspect ratio version (in 3D). Those of you who saw The Dark Knight know that the screen got much taller when it switched to the scenes that Christopher Nolan shot with IMAX. And it seems like Cameron will be presenting the 3D version in that "taller" format, whereas 2D will most likely be cropped down so that it fits the scope aspect ratio. I'm curious whether this could become controversial again considering the big screen size fiasco with IMAX from a few weeks ago.
In addition to that reveal, Cameron humbly said that Avatar "may not make film history, but there are a few shots in the film that he knows for certain will be quite memorable." He also claims that his CGI special effects "aren't necessarily revolutionary," but rather that the way that he shot the movie, with instant in-camera feedback with a rendered image, "could very well change moviemaking." I don't mind if he's humble about all this, because as long as my expectations stay grounded, then I'm likely to be even more blown away in the end. As for the aspect ratios, this is the one time I'll say that you better see this in 3D!