In 2009, the release of James Cameron's epic-of-epics Avatar triggered a decade-long boom for 3D cinema — and his long-awaited sequel has hopes to do the same all over again.
"If you think about the way it worked back then, [3D] was a novelty," Cameron told Yahoo UK, explaining that the landscape has shifted since he debuted Avatar in stereoscopic form.
He added: "Now it has found its level as a consumer choice. At the time we had 6,000 screens worldwide that were 3D screens, now we have 120,000.
"Most big blockbuster movies are made in 3D, so people have a choice — if they like it they can see it in 3D and if they don't like it they can see it in 2D. I author it both ways."
Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas and IMAX from 16 December.
TOM BEASLEY: You're in 3D again. And you have high frame rate in the film as well. 3D, I think, was perceived as a risk in 2009.
JAMES CAMERON: Yeah.
TOM BEASLEY: And it's sort of come back around to being perceived as a risk again now because it's sort of fallen out of favor, I think.
JAMES CAMERON: Well, is that really true, though? I mean, if you think about the way it worked back then, it was a novelty. And now, it's found its level as a consumer choice. So at the time, we had 6,000 screens worldwide that were 3D screens, digital. Now, we have 120,000.
Now, most big blockbuster movies are made in 3D, so people have a choice. If they like it, they can see it in 3D. If they don't like it, they can see it in 2D.
TOM BEASLEY: And you have high frame rate this time, which I think is an art form that people are still struggling with in films.
JAMES CAMERON: It's not a-- well, I mean, did you struggle with it when you watched the movie last night?
TOM BEASLEY: I didn't. The moment where I think it really flew was when they were underwater.
JAMES CAMERON: So we tried--
TOM BEASLEY: From the moment you were underwater, I never questioned it.
JAMES CAMERON: We tried to decide how to apply it. And the rule was whenever they're underwater, it's 48 frames-- boom. Just don't even think about it. Some of the flying scenes, some of the broad vistas benefit from 48 frames.
If it's just people sitting around talking or walking and talking or whatever relatively slowly evolving images, it's not necessary. In fact, it's actually sometimes even counterproductive because it looks a little too glassy smooth, right? So the trick to it was to figure out where to use it and we're not to use it.
Now, the one thing I will say pretty definitively, 48 frames doesn't benefit a 2D movie very much, if at all. It's really about making a better experience in 3D. Because sometimes, the edge detection that our brains are trying to do to decode the parallax-- we're getting technical now. The rapid lateral displacement causes it to strobe and it basically screws with our brains. So we wanted to get rid of that to make a better 3D experience.
Because people used to complain about 3D, oh, I don't like 3D, it gives me a headache. Well, why? Well, when you drill down on it, this is why. It's that strobing. The 48 takes that out.
But I don't see it as a format. It's not a format, like 70 millimeter. It's a tool. It's an authoring tool.
So I think we got it. I think we got it in balance. I think it's definitely working.