Avatar Team Decided to Create 1,065 Delivery Versions for Theaters

At the HPA (Hollywood Professional Association) Tech Retreat, a number of discussions and presentations discussed the massive undertaking of creating James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water.

In the age of digital cinema, where theatres’ screening capabilities might vary widely, Cameron and Landau were unwavering in their commitment to providing audiences with the finest possible experience no matter where they happened to be sitting. Avatar: The Way of Water required the production of an astounding 1,065 distinct distribution versions of the film.

Combinations of these unprecedented outputs include 2D, 3D, HDR, 4K, various brightness levels, a variety of audio formats, subtitles, and dubbing in 51 languages, a frame rate of 48 frames per second, and a high frame rate of 48 frames per second.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 750 Hollywood’s top IT executives, developers, and suppliers, Disney, 20th Century Studios, Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment, and producer Jon Landau revealed their groundbreaking plan for getting the film into theatres.

According to Kim Beresford, vice president of integrated planning and motion pictures operations at Walt Disney Studios, the film was essentially cut into 15 reels so that the team could begin building delivery elements before the final 3-hour, the 12-minute film was finalized.

It wasn’t until about 16 days before the premiere date that we had the whole movie assembled,” Beresford said. Because we couldn’t wait, we had to make our way forward “reel by reel,

Mark Arana, vice president of IT at Walt Disney Studios, described the unorthodox method as “we had to adapt our operation into a 24/7 support model.

The team came up with a novel method to generate and monitor all of the versions and portions of versions across numerous vendors. The process also included the creation of a new DCP mastering technology that made cloud-based mastering possible.

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