Even though a Blu-ray 3D version of “Avatar” is already available with the purchase of Panasonic 3D products in Europe and is expected to be introduced the same way in the U.S. on Dec. 1, that version does not offer any of the 16-minutes of added scenes or hours of bonus features being introduced in the three-disc “AvatarExtended Collector’s Edition” hitting stores Tuesday (Nov. 16).
All 16-minutes of new scenes will be presented in 3D along with some behind-the-scenes and bonus footage shot in 3D on a future Blu-ray 3D for general retail release, but only when the market grows big enough to justify it, “Avatar” producer Jon Landau told HollywoodInHiDef.com in a phone interview today (Nov. 10). Panasonic is believed to have paid for an unusually long 1-year exclusive window for the “Avatar” theatrical version on Blu-ray 3D.
“We were ahead of the curve on DVD with ‘Titanic’ and we don’t want to make that mistake again (with Blu-ray 3D),” Landau said. Although “Titanic” went on to become a big-selling DVD, Landau said initial sales were disappointing because there were only 500,000 homes with DVD players upon its initial release on disc.
Steven Spielberg withheld his films from release on DVD by Universal for several years in the mid-1990s until the market had time to develop, though he gave permission for Sony to release his “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” on Blu-ray very early in that format’s development in November 2007 as Blu-ray was battling for survival with the competing HD DVD format. Some industry execs say big filmmakers sometimes like to wait until there are at least 1 million homes with a new format before introducing their films for sale.
The situation creates a chicken-or-egg scenario as major films by big-time filmmakers are needed to drive adoption of a new format to the level they require before releasing their films.
Landau told HollywoodInHiDef.com that making the 3D version of the movie available on Blu-ray in a limited way initially, exclusively with 3D Blu-ray players and 3DTVs, is a “great way to start up a home consumer base (for Blu-ray 3D).”
He reiterated what he and Cameron said last week about the 3D quality on Blu-ray: “We’re thrilled with the 3D,” adding that they worked very closely with Panasonic Hollywood Labs, which listened to many comments and input and made all the appropriate adjustments.
As for the newest version of the movie coming Tuesday for 2D Blu-ray, Landau said that even with three versions of the movie on a single Blu-ray Disc, including two extended editions of the movie with up to 16-minutes of additional footage and an alternate family-friendly dialogue track, no quality level was sacrificed.
In justifying the rationale not to include a single extra element on the initial release of “Avatar” on Blu-ray in April — not so much as a trailer — Landau and Cameron said last March that they wanted to use every bit of available space on the disc to ensure the best possible quality.
Landau said today that they have been able to learn how to manipulate the bit rate, reducing it for scenes where it’s not as important to carve out room for the additional elements. Like most discs in recent years, particularly from Fox, the extended versions simply seamlessly connect the added footage into the underlying theatrical cut of the film at the appropriate moments so the total additional time needed was the 16-minutes of added scenes in the longest cut of the movie exclusive to this Blu-ray edition, he said.
Additionally, Landau and Cameron told an audience at the Blu-Con conference in Beverly Hills last week that the bonus features, including more than an hour of previously deleted scenes, were not finished in time for the April release.
Landau also noted that producers are making use of the BD Live technology on Blu-ray, not only for the upcoming release but also for those who bought the first Blu-ray version in April. While awaiting November 16 to roll around, users can connect their “Avatar” Blu-ray Disc to the Internet and get a sneak peek at some of the behind-the-scenes bonus features on the new disc and even some extras not included on the new disc, he said, such as a mockumentary. His team will continue to post new updates accessible via BD Live for users to access via the new Blu-ray edition of “Avatar.”
– By Scott Hettrick