Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar IMAX 3D

I saw Avatar again last night. Unlike last time, I saw it in IMAX, both times were 3D. Visually the big screen was nice, but not a necessary upgrade. There was a bigger difference sound-wise and I always forget this about the theater at Jordan's in Natick. Lots of sound, lots of bass in your seats.

I noticed a few details I had missed the first time. The Na'vi have 4 fingers on each hand (one thumb) and the avatars have 5. I guess that's because of the mix of human/na'vi DNA, but if they're supposed to blend in with the natives... I also noticed that Cameron's camera is always moving. It works for showing the action and it's not shaky or nauseating at all (it's better than the constantly cutting), but a few times I wanted to stare at things and it was difficult.

My opinion of the 3D hasn't changed. There are times when things seem to be projected on glass, surfaces that should be solid seem a little transparent. A theory is that it's an artifact of the polarized lens used for the 3D. Both times I saw it used this system instead of the shutter glasses. And I still hate when things in the foreground (like floating seeds) are out of focus. But otherwise it works and the flying scenes are gorgeous. I did notice two cheesy effects when guns were pointed at the camera, but that wasn't a big deal and is more likely just something that's bound to happen from time to time rather than a deliberate 3D-ism.

If you have the choice, seeing it in IMAX is better, but there isn't a great need to see it a second time in IMAX if you didn't the first.


Ron said...

Can you tell me where to get glasses for this tittle when it comes out on DVD?

Michael Critz said...

It’s very difficult to match physically correct reflections in stereoscopic 3D. In reality, reflections appear further back in space than the surfaces they’re projected on. They have virtual distance from the viewer to the reflected object. In stereoscopic space this is psychologically unpleasant.

Our eyes are pretty good at focusing on a reflected virtual distance in the world, but it turns out our brains can’t compute that if you simulate the exact same phenomenon using stereoscopic 3D.

Pixar solves this problem by solving all reflections at the depth of the reflective surface. Essentially, this flattens out the reflected world. I don’t know if that’s what’s happening in Avatar. I felt like the reflections were deliberately made abstract (either blurry or otherwise indistinct) so that our eyes wouldn’t focus on them.

The VFXshow podcast had a great commentary on this problem on their episode for UP.