I have seen the first Blu-ray 3D movie that could do what consumer electronics companies have been hoping would happen – drive me to buy a 3D TV and Blu-ray 3D player just to get and watch that movie, which is “Avatar.”
This is the OMG! disc the industry needs so badly.
Clearly Panasonic knew what it had in this disc that the company’s Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory also authored with lots of input and oversight by director James Cameron.
And clearly Cameron wasn’t joking when he told an audience a couple weeks ago that it looks as good on a 3DTV as it looked in theaters.
I would actually argue that it looks better, way better!
Since Nov. 1 the “Avatar” Blu-ray 3D disc has only been available in Europe only with the purchase of a Panasonic Blu-ray 3D player or 3DTV. I’ve been reporting for months that it will be available the same way here in the U.S. beginning Dec. 1, and only available that way for about a year. Panasonic and Fox have yet to confirm the Dec. 1 date for the U.S.
Many people have seen footage from “Avatar” on a demo disc at conferences and other industry and media events for months, which is impressive but nowhere near as dynamic and compelling as the actual movie disc that I had a chance to watch this week on a 60-inch 3D plasma display.
I saw 20-minutes of “Avatar” at Comic-Con in 2009; I saw the movie at the Hollywood premiere at the Chinese Theater last year; I saw it again at a giant-screen IMAX theater at Universal Citywalk, where the 3D was far more impacting than on a traditional screen. And I saw both 2D Blu-ray versions, which I feel have images that are even more vivid than the theatrical 3D versions, probably because the TV screen is inherently brighter than watching on a theater screen through dark glasses.
But none of those experiences was anything like the Blu-ray 3D version I saw this week, which instantly immersed me in the world of Pandora beginning with the stunning main menu page. Finally, the 3D made me feel like I was in experiencing this world rather than observing. And everything had far more depth and clarity than any other version. When the two main characters run across the log in the forest, this was the first time I really felt the danger of the plunging depth below them, which also drew my eyes to a waterfall down below to the left that I had never seen before. The bright and colorful wood sprites felt as if they were flittering much more closely to me. I wanted to remain in this world and instantly watch all my favorite movies in this way.
This is much closer to the 3D experience I have always sought and have thus far only found in documentary films at IMAX giant-screen theaters. I was hoping Hollywood would be able to deliver that same sensation with its more personal, fictional stories, but so far that has not been the case, not even the theatrical release of “Avatar.” Next week’s “Tangled” comes about the closest I have seen so far.
Having just watched about a dozen of the most recent Blu-ray 3D titles released this week (Zemeckis’ Christmas Carol, Polar Express; IMAX documentaries from Image/Warner; Warner’s Clash of Titans, Cats & Dogs w/ Road Runner; Sony’s FIFA 2010 World Cup, Open Season, Monster House), with varying quality but none better than slightly above average, I did not think Blu-ray 3D would be the medium that would wind up coming closest to meeting my expectations.
That was until I saw the Blu-ray 3D of “Avatar,” which was followed shortly thereafter by a call to Best Buy to see if that current price of $1,799 for a Panasonic 3D package including a 50-inch 3D TV, Blu-ray 3D player, two pairs of 3D glasses, and two Blu-ray 3D movies will still be good after Dec. 1.
— By Scott Hettrick