Avatar: The Waterway, James Cameron’s event film, has just landed in cinemas. In Japan, the feature film met with mixed success. During its first weekend of exploitation, the film collected only 3.6 million dollars in the archipelago. Despite the worldwide craze, Avatar 2 failed to impose itself at the top of the Japanese box office. He had to settle for second place, behind the animated film The First Slam Dunk.
The mixed success of Avatar would be partly due to technical problems, reports Bloomberg. A plethora of Japanese theatres ran into technical issues while airing the footage. According to Japanese media, several cinemas in the country were forced to cancel the film screening during the opening weekend at the last moment. Others interrupted the screening and offered refunds to disgruntled viewers.
A film too sophisticated for Japanese cinemas?
The feature film would have turned out to be too sophisticated from a technical point of view for certain Japanese operations, reports the media. True to form, director James Cameron has relied on various cutting-edge technologies to bring the world of Pandora to life.
Unfortunately, many Japanese cinemas are not yet equipped with some of these technologies. In Japan, operators are often reluctant to invest in new equipment. The technical evolution of cinemas, especially of the most modest companies, is slower than in Europe or the United States, explains Bloomberg. Some theatres could not show Avatar 2 due to the technical limitations of their projection booths.
For the record, the first opus of Avatar was already distinguished by its technological prowess. Released in 2009, the film helped popularize 3D. Avatar quickly became a reference for lovers of this format. Unlike many films produced at the time, Avatar was designed from the project’s outset for distribution in three dimensions.
The 48 frames per second problem
For the time being, we still do not know exactly why Avatar 2 caused malfunctions in certain rooms. To broadcast the blockbuster despite everything, a cinema in the city of Nagoya seems to have found a workaround. The cinema chose to project the work in 24 frames per second instead of the 48 frames per second advocated by James Cameron.
“It was originally planned that the film would be screened in the version with the high frame rate (48 fps), but due to various circumstances, the version with the normal frame rate (24 fps) will be screened”, explains the cinema of Nagoya on his Twitter account.[/i]
The director indeed shot Avatar 2 in HFR (High Frame Rate) to improve the fluidity of the sequences. This technology makes it possible to project a film at 48 frames per second, double the current cinema standard. By restricting the number of images per second to a traditional frequency, Japanese cinema has probably managed to broadcast Avatar 2 without encountering the slightest problem. The cinema’s IMAX theatres could not handle the information overload inherent in 48 frames per second. To project footage in HFR, it is indeed necessary to have second-generation digital projectors.
However, this is not the first time a film in 48 frames per second has been screened in Japan. Indeed, director Peter Jackson shot the entire The Hobbit trilogy in this format. Despite the New Zealand filmmaker’s enthusiasm, 48 frames per second have not been embraced by the industry or the public. Many spectators did not appreciate this excess of fluidity, which does not suit certain scenes, but, to our knowledge, the cinemas did not encounter any technical problems at the time.
To achieve the continuation of Avatar, James Cameron chose to improve the technology inaugurated by Peter Jackson. Unlike The Hobbit, Avatar 2 takes advantage of a variable frame rate. In concrete terms, the director did not shoot all of the shots in 48 frames per second. The high frequency was reserved for certain scenes.
“The rule was that each time the characters are underwater, we go through 48 images. If it’s just people sitting talking or walking around, slowly changing images, it’s not necessary. In fact, sometimes it’s even counterproductive because the rendering looks too smooth, right? “ , James Cameron recently explained to Yahoo UK .
On more static shots, the filmmaker was content with the traditional 24 frames per second. It’s possible that it was this high but variable frame rate that caused the technical issues in Japanese movie theatres. For the moment, Disney and Japanese cinemas have refused to discuss the technical problems generated by Avatar 2.