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James Cameron Avatar sequels: director pushing for greater 3D enhancements

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We’re still a few years away from the release of the first Avatar sequel, but James Cameron revealed he’s currently pushing for technological advancements to make the second film in the planned pentalogy well worth the wait. 

Speaking Friday night during a ceremony honoring his induction as an honorary member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers — a distinction previously bestowed upon the likes of Walt Disney, Ray Dolby, and George Lucas — at the organization’s Centennial Gala in Hollywood, Cameron ensured attendees he’s aiming to make subsequent journeys to the world of Pandora as immersive as he can. 

“I’m going to push. Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range and high frame rates — the things we are working toward,” he said of plotting photography for the first sequel, slated to hit theaters in late 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

The Oscar-winning filmmaker, who was presented with the SMPTE honor by Avatar‘s visual effects supervisor (and four-time Academy Award-winner) Joe Letteri, went on to emphasize the importance of innovating new technologies to make the moviegoing experience more tangible to general audiences.

“Magic has to amaze,” he said. “That involves constant creation of new tools and techniques. The audience’s eyes adjust to what we did, and so we need to up our work.” 

Cameron’s comments come on the heels of the world premiere of Ang Lee’s visually groundbreaking drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which screened Oct. 14 at the New York Film Festival to middling critical reviews, many of which lambasted the film’s 4K HD, 120 frames-per-second presentation (the industry standard is 24 frames-per-second) as distracting and detrimental to the potential poignancy of Jean-Christoph Castelli’s script. 

“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,” Cameron told THR on the SMPTE event’s red carpet. “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.”

The first Avatar sequel is scheduled for release in December 2018. More films in the franchise are set to hit theaters in December 2020, December 2022, and December 2023. Unadjusted for inflation, the original Avatar is the highest-grossing worldwide release of all time, pulling in almost $2.8 billion between 2009 and 2010. 

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