Finally got around to seeing Avatar at the IMAX yesterday - it’s a visual feast and I’d say it’s worth seeing in 3D. In technical terms, it still suffered from the same problem I saw during the Avatar Day preview - motion flicker during rapid action sequences - but Cameron’s certainly succeeded in using 3D to immerse you in the picture, rather than Poking Things Out of the Screen to emphasise that you’re watching in Three! Dee!
But… hold on, was it an essential part of the viewing experience? I enjoyed it, certainly, and I’d recommend checking the film out on the IMAX. But Cameron clearly doesn’t think so, or he wouldn’t have released it in 2D as well (yes, I know, he had to be pragmatic after spending $400 million or whatever it was). Inevitably, the 2D version was pirated - becoming the fasted-pirated film on record, incidentally. Now, if Cameron had been able to insist the film only be released in 3D, that wouldn’t have happened - but he had to release the film to 2D cinemas too, and by doing so, implicitly acknowledged that it isn’t essential to watch the film in 3D. So in its first two days of release, half a million people went, “Hey, I guess if the director isn’t that fussed about the film being in 2D, I don’t need to be either.” And promptly pirated it.
Film studios are furiously pushing 3D as an essential part of the cinema viewing experience - mainly in order to stem the tide of film piracy. Yet at the same time, they’re also pushing 3D home entertainment, with companies like nVidia producing 3D graphics cards and monitors for the PC, and Sky palling up with TV manufacturers to deliver 3D TV in the home. That’s understandable; if people accept that 3D is an essential part of the film experience, they’re going to want to view films that way at home, too.
3D might stave off some pirates, but… surely once everyone has a 3D TV and a 3D PC monitor, people will just start pirating 3D films? They’ll have to wait until the Blu-ray release, of course - which will buy studios a period of grace - but the studios are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they say, “3D is an essential part of the viewing experience,” people will just go out, buy a 3D TV or monitor and pirate the 3D Blu-ray when it comes out. If they continue to release films in 2D as well as 3D - and thus accept that 3D isn’t an essential part of the viewing experience - hundreds of thousands of people will shrug their shoulders and pirate the 2D version.
I’d be interested to learn what the studios’ strategy is here - presumably they have some plan which takes account of the above factors…