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The New ‘Avatar’ Movies Won’t Be in High Frame Rate.

James Cameron continues to work away at his Avatar sequels. The first Avatar was a real game-changer with its use of 3D to the point where every major blockbuster for half a decade required a 3D upgrade. However, while the novelty of 3D has worn off (again), other directors are trying out new tools like Ang Lee and 120fps on Gemini Man.
As part of a group interview for Terminator: Dark Fate, Steve Weintraub recently asked Cameron if he had seen Gemini Man and his thoughts on high frame rate (HFR). Cameron explained that while he hadn’t seen the high frame rate specifically in Gemini Man, he felt that it was more of a tool to be deployed in certain situations rather than used for an entire movie:

“I’ve seen some clips from Gemini Man. I haven’t seen the picture yet because I’m down here in New Zealand. I’m interested to see it. I mean, I have a personal philosophy around high frame rate, which is that it is a specific solution to specific problems having to do with 3D. And when you get the strobing and the jutter of certain shots that pan or certain lateral movement across frame, it’s distracting in 3D. And to me, it’s just a solution for those shots. I don’t think it’s a format. That’s just me personally. I know Ang doesn’t see it that way. I don’t think it’s like the next 70 millimeter or the next big thing. I think it’s a tool to be used to solve problems in 3D projection. And I’ll be using it sparingly throughout the Avatar films, but they won’t be in high frame rate. But I am curious to see what they came up with. Have you guys seen it? And you saw a high frame rate screening?
Yes. Actually, underwater stuff in particular really stood out.
Well, this is the thing. To me, the more mundane the subject, two people talking in the kitchen, the worse it works, because you feel like you’re in a set of a kitchen with actors in makeup. That’s how real it is, you know? But I think when you’ve got extraordinary subjects that are being shot for real, or even through CG, that hyper-reality actually works in your favor. So to me, it’s a wand that you wave in certain moments and use when you need it. It’s an authoring tool.”

It’s a thoughtful answer and a good explanation of why the Avatar movies won’t be in HFR when they’re finally released. And although Cameron doesn’t mention it, releasing it in HFR would severely limit his vision since most theaters in the U.S. didn’t even bother screening Gemini Man in full 120fps and chose to only go as high as 60fps. It appears Cameron’s focus remains on pushing 3D forward and while HFR may be a solution in some scenarios, it’s not a cure-all.

We’ll see if Cameron’s 3D changes the game again when Avatar 2 opens December 17, 2021.

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