Cameron Says Avatar Won't Be Shown the Same Size Everywhere

May 30, 2009
Source: Ain't It Cool News

James Cameron - Avatar

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).

Avatar - Aspect Ratios

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!

Find more posts: Editorial, Hype, Movie News



Finally... thank god. Straight from the man's mouth! Quite frankly I've become annoyed with all this AVATAR WILL BE REVOLUTIONARY talk from filmmakers and filmgeeks alike.

teyhtr on May 30, 2009


Even if they don't have a 3D version on home video for a while, they better put the movie in both Aspect Ratios on the Blu-ray...

AD on May 30, 2009


I've literally just come from watching The Abyss. I can't sodding wait. And I'm now distancing myself from as much information about Avatar as possible until December. See you then, Mr Cameron!

Digital Metaphor on May 30, 2009


NOW he's saying "Avatar might not make film history..." and "it isn't really revolutionary" only a month after claiming that it'll be the biggest thing since the first moon landing. Quite frankly, I'm not interested in seeing this film for just "a few memorable scenes." I want it to be, well, revolutionary.

Ken on May 30, 2009


trailer! trailer! trailer!

Janny on May 30, 2009


I hope that the 3d version for the Blu-ray keeps the 1:78:1 just like the Dark Knight Blu-ray, but i hope the glasses or the technology they use are revolutionary. I mean that film with Brendan Frashier (journey to the center of the earth) was great in 3d, but the glasses were not that great. I just hope his dvd/blu-ray transfer would excel the Imax standard that The Dark Knight achieved, well at least the sound quality would be better no matter what.

Nikhil Hariharan on May 30, 2009


Knowing Cameron to be the perfectionist that he is, I'm guessing he's paid attention to detail on both versions, and they are both composed as well as the other. But, given how much 3-D is a part of this movie, the 1.85:1 version will be the preferred version. BTW Dark Knight's IMAX footage wasn't shot in 1.85:1 like the 3-D version of Avatar. It was shot in real IMAX film, which is about 1.44:1 and on DVD was cropped to 1.78:1 to create the desired effect. Cameron is probably using 1.85:1 on Avatar because it will fill up most of (but not all of) the IMAX screen. There will still be small black bars on the top and bottom, whereas Dark Knight's IMAX footage had no black space at all; it was true IMAX.

Jonathan on May 30, 2009


#7 - I know, that's why I called it somewhat of "half" IMAX, since this isn't true IMAX, but for the layman moviegoers who don't know the difference, they'll still perceive the difference as being a picture that fills the screen more, about half of TDK. Thanks for clarifying.

Alex Billington on May 30, 2009


Since Cameron is talking about the theater presentation, he is most likley talking about a 1.85 aspect ratio for the 3D viewing. 1.78:1 or 16:9 is more a high definition consumer aspect ratio but not really used when talking in cinematic terms. "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." Beeing a Cinematographer, I find this explanation "very" questionable ;-).

Isaac on May 30, 2009


Whatever want a trailer.

cody on May 30, 2009


I personally prefer the 2.35:1 scope ratio which looks more pleasing and cinematic. Don't really care about the 3-D process or the CGI, as long as the story is strong and the characters are good.

avoidz on May 30, 2009


3D is a gimmick. give me a great action sci-fi movie and i will be more than happy. nothing beats 2D. i dont care if james cameron himself comes out of the screen and massages my balls. i wont support a gimmick. its like american idol for movies. its been tried before. if i dont have to wear the glasses and its 3D then perfect otherwise i will be watching Days of Heaven. One of the most beautiful things ever captured on film and guess what....... its in 2D.

Matador on May 30, 2009


#9: Very nice. #12: Sure its a gimmick, but hell its another perspective of watching a film, i myself found Coraline to be dull in 2D, but in 3D it was a great film. But hey 3D helps progress technology, and the way the editing/cinematography works while filming in 3D helps this progress.

Nikhil Hariharan on May 31, 2009


I just hope this 3D and "new tecnology crap" is not why they hype it.

Shige on May 31, 2009


3D is a gimmick. MOST MOVIES ARE A GIMMICK. Please calm down about the 'hating' on 3D everybody. Personally I prefer 3D because it just sucks me into the story so much better than 2D. I literally am not thinking about anything else. 3D is a more pleasurable experience for me, NOT because I'm watching something in 3D, but because I feel totally in the story. Just don't be so harsh about 3D, it's only a gimmick some of the time (just like everything else).

Scott McHenry on May 31, 2009


The movie of the year this will be. The Confrontation Between Avatar and Transformers 2 will be high.

Fisherr on May 31, 2009


He made a very good point and Im glad he said it. People are probably expecting some amazing unseen type of visuals. There probably will be some very cool cgi and 3-d in the film. But the visua;s aren't necessarily the revolutionary part. Whats revolutionary is how his new camera system allows one to capture the effect while shooting. It ground breaking technology and will change the way a director can employ effects or 3D into a movie.

JimD on May 31, 2009


This isn't going to be a revolution the way Jurassic Park was. If you saw that movie in cinemas back in 1993 you knew a big change had just happened.

avoidz on May 31, 2009


Show me something, anything.

Cat on May 31, 2009


all i can say is that i hope this doesn't get too overhyped! As with some people when they listen and read all this positive feedback from a movie their expectations raise astronomically, to an un-realistic level even! I dont want cameron's masterpeice ruined by un realisitic expectations, after all if its a good film that will be enough for me, the 3D is just a bonus!!!

Voice of reason on May 31, 2009


Okay Alex...a couple technicalities here. 1) Just because something is 1.78:1 doesn't mean you see more than a 2.35:1 like your blog says and displays in your convenient picture. If you cut off the sides of a 2.35:1, you can make the image size 1.78:1 and you actually LOSE some of the picture. 2) You must remember how "The Dark Knight" was shot. The reason for the size difference when watching the film in either IMAX or Blu-ray, is because the 1:78:1 ration scenes were shot with an IMAX camera. Remember only 20% of "The Dark Knight" was in IMAX (70mm film). The rest was shot on 35mm film in scope. Obviously the IMAX scenes will be "larger" as it would basically defeat the purpose of IMAX if they were downsized.

Taylor Fenno on May 31, 2009


Man, I just wanna see it already.

Andrew on May 31, 2009


you would be better seeing Avitar in the format the director as shot it in on most casers if shot in 2.351 which mr cameron if he shot avitar in. if you having to sqweze the picture into 1.781 or 1.851 it will have to be croped you will loose some of the picture even though imax picture is good im not dismissing that i would rather see the film how it was shoot also in most casers feature film have to be blown up into imax you loose some of the picture clarity.

Allen Reeve on Jun 1, 2009


All I can say is the picture in this blog is dead wrong. The 1.78 ratio for the Avatar conversion is a smaller square INSIDE the original 2.35 image. The sides of the picture are cropped. I know because I watched the Thanator chase a bunch of times online and then in Imax 3D it was almost unwatchable because they zoomed in so tight on the center of the frame and cut off the sides, so you could not tell what was going on. I can't say for sure if this is just because of Imax or if all of the 3D presentations are like this. But I saw the Avatar Day preview in a fake Imax theater with the wider screen and I am almost sure it was not cropped the way the Imax was and it showed the full 2.35 picture.

JediJones on Dec 20, 2009


JediJones, I think what you saw is a third aspect ratio not mentioned here, the 1.43:1 projection aspect ratio of IMAX 70mm film. That would be a TV-ish aspect ratio cropped out of the center of the original 16:9 image, cropping off the sides. There is no question that the shooting aspect ratio of AVATAR is 16:9 — it was shot in HD. So you can see AVATAR in 2.35:1 2D with the top and bottom cropped off, or in IMAX 3D with the sides cropped off, or in Digital IMAX 3D and see the entire 16:9 frame that JC would like you to see.

Stu on Dec 22, 2009


Hey folks, Avatar was shot in 1.78:1 ratio using digital cameras. So the matting situation is different from conventional film where the film negative is 1.37:1. For Avatar, 1.78:1 IS the full image. So the 2.39:1 scope version that is being shown in non-IMAX theaters is actually a matted version where the picture is cropped top and bottom. But still, the cinematographer will have composed the shots for both 1.78 (full frame) and 2.39 (conventional theater) presentation, so both can be considered "director's intent." Personally, having seen the movie in 2.39:1 3-D, I'm now interested to see the fuller framed 1.78:1 version, hopefully on Blu-ray.

Greg on Dec 27, 2009


Can anyone give me an answer? I saw "AVATAR" two times in Detroit area with IMAX-3D version. (1st - 12/19 at AMC Livonia - IMAX Digirtal -so called "AMC (damn!) Fake IMAX", 2nd - 12/28 at NCG Trillium Gland Blanc - I believe this is Film version of IMAX.) However, I'm sure that both shows were presented in 1.33:1 or close to that aspect ratio. (Screen was fully used for both presentation.If it is 1.78:1, we should see the black area in the top and the bottom of screen in this IMAX screen. I know the full-spec IMAX theater such as Navy Pier IMAX in Chicago, Henry Ford Museum IMAX in Detorit and Suntory Museum IMAX in Osaka. I believe AMC Livonia and NGC Trillium have the same aspect ratio with these IMAX theatres... Of course, I understand that 1.78:1 is very close to the current Hi-Def TV aspect ratio.) According to this article, IMAX-3D must be shown in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. If Cameron's intention is to use 1.78:1 for 3D and 2.35 for 2D, why has this aspect ratio(1.33:1) been used for IMAX-3D presentation here in Detroit? Personally, I believe 1.33;1 is best for IMAX presentation (I like IMAX portion of "Dark Knight"). But if 1.33:1 is not correct, something is wrong for the above presentation. Do you know anything about it? If you know, please let me know. Thanks a lot in advance.

Mitch on Dec 28, 2009


Mitch, it sounds like your IMAX theater projected the image incorrectly. If they filled the whole IMAX screen, then they chopped off the sides of the image. I would be asking for my money back and see it some where else.

Peter on Jan 4, 2010


I agree with you jedi jones. The Aspect Ratio shown is wrong for the 1:78:1 because 2:35:1 is definitley wider. It's misleading. What there showing at the moment for 1:78:1 in that pic above is what you will get with a vertically stretched image and a lens in front.

Tom on Jan 8, 2010


Cameron stated that the film's aspect ratio would be 1.78:1 for 3-D screenings and that a 2.39:1 image would be extracted for 2-D screenings. However, the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is actually exclusive to IMAX 3D screenings while all other projection methods (including digital 3-D) use the 2.35:1 extract.

Peter on Jan 8, 2010


Stu, you are correct. I went to see Avatar again in digital Imax and the full 1.78:1 image was used. As opposed to real Imax, I could actually see what the heck was going on in the Thanator chase scene in digital Imax! By contrast, the original real Imax theater I went to chopped off the sides of the image so the picture would fill the 1.43:1 Imax screen from top to bottom. As soon as the film started I thought it was odd they were filling the screen from top to bottom, because I know with Dark Knight that only happened during the special Imax-camera scenes at this theater. The normal Dark Knight film scenes had black bars on the top and bottom, but there were none on Avatar. I also know this theater will sometimes show normal movies on their giant Imax screen when they have nothing good in Imax to play. So I think they have a way of projecting films onto their Imax screen however they want to whether it was the director's intent or not. I've seen a couple other people post that their Imax theaters did the same cropping, so I'm wondering if this actually happened at all "real" Imax theaters. Peter, I saw a quote from Cameron where he said the 3D version would be shown in 1.78:1 where it was possible, but that it might have to be shown in 2.35:1 at some theaters. I haven't seen it in non-Imax yet to check. I just saw someone post on IMDB that the Oscar screener DVD is in 1.78:1. That's odd since Cameron only wanted that format for 3D showings. I wonder what format the initial 2D DVD release will be in?

JediJones on Feb 7, 2010

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