Avatar director James Cameron
Photo: Mel Lambert|content-creators.com
By Mel Lambert|content-creators.com
According to Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video and president of the Digital Entertainment Group, close to 21 million US households now own a Blu-ray player, with an annual sell-through market of $1 billion. “We have seen a 60 percent increase in Blu-ray media sales his year; it is an accepted high-resolution audio and video attraction for the consumer audience,” Sanders told a sell-out crowd during his opening remarks at the recent Blu-Con 2010 conference, presented by DEG at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in association with a number of leading film/TV companies and content creators. Scheduled Blu-ray releases from Warner Home Entertainment include such classics as Citizen Kane and Ben Hur; Sony is adding The Bridge On The River Kwai, Paramount will offer The African Queen and Fox has dusted off The Sound of Music.
During The Blu-ray Experience – A Conversation with James Cameron and Jon Landau, the director and producer of Avatar provided details for the new Blu-ray Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition, to be released as a three-disc set on November 16. “We have added 16 extra minutes for the new release,” Cameron explained, as well as a number of behind-the-scenes and making-of documentaries. “We paid a lot of attention to making sure that we retained the original production values for the added material,” Landau stressed, including full multichannel surround-sound mixes. “Audio is an important part of the Blu-ray immersive experience; we did not want to compromise any element of the new Extended Collector’s Edition.”
“The added scenes include several new creatures that we had started to develop for the Hunt Scene but never completed [for the original film release],” Cameron continued. “That was one of the big action scenes that we completed for the new edition, as well as a new five-minute opening scene of preparations being made on Earth,” before the journey to the threatened planet of Pandora. “We also prepared a special PG13, ‘family-friendly’ audio track that removed the adult language,” the director said. “I have a six-year old daughter; I wanted her and her friends to enjoy the film. It uses the same picture cut, but with specially recorded ADR we prepared for the network version.” The new release also includes 65 minutes of annotated Scene Deconstructions.
A 3D version of Avatar is also scheduled for a December release, but will only be available with purchase of a Panasonic 3D TV, home-theater system or Blu-ray player, Landau revealed. “3D is here and Blu-ray will allow us to deliver the best quality in the home,” Cameron stressed. In the Fifties “3D died because of quality difficulties,” he stated. “Now we have access to high-quality production technologies that make 3D an ideal medium for sports and episodic television, as well as motion pictures. When we worked on the Terminator 2: 3D attraction for Universal [during the mid-Nineties], cameras weighed 300 pounds; now they weigh 30 pounds, and offer much more flexibility.”
But the Avatar director is no fan of 2D-to-3D conversion. Referring to the on-again/off-again stereoscopic plans for the new Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 film, which originally was going to be shot in 3D and then wasn’t because of reported quality problems, “If you want to release a movie in 3D then you should shoot it in 3D,” Cameron stressed, “and not as a tacked-on layer after the fact.” But if a production was not shot in 2D, “then spend the time in post production to do a proper job of the conversion,” the director said, citing six months as being a reasonable period to complete a 2D-to-3D process. “We might also consider different stereoscopic processes for different screen sizes,” Cameron concluded, offering that what might work on an 80-foot movie screen might not work as well on a 50-inch LCD display.
Acknowledging that some five million consumers have purchased Blu-ray versions of Fox Entertainment’s Avatar, Bill Carr, VP of Music & Video at Amazon.com emphasized the unique combination of high-resolution/1080i video and uncompressed audio available from by the emergent consumer-delivery format, but offered that consumer adoption has been slower than with DVD – after four years there are currently around 5,000 Blu-ray titles whereas some 20,000 DVD tiles were being offered after the same start-up period – and that amazon.com customers are looking for missing Blu-ray titles such as the six Star Wars titles and the Lord of The Rings trilogy. “The higher price for Blu-ray titles – averaging $25.99, compared to $15.99 for DVD – is hampering sales,” Carr offered. “The future lies in internet-connected Blu-ray players with WiFi connections,” which will also allow discs and streamed content to be viewed in various rooms throughout the house via TVs, computers and portable devices.
Mark Waldrep, president, AIX Records.
Photo: Mel Lambert|content-creators.com
The day’s final session, Blu-ray and Music: Storytelling Through Sound, considered the use of Blu-ray as an alternative format for both concert videos and high-resolution music. Moderated by Marc Finer, DEG’s Technical Director, panelists comprised Jim Belcher, VP of Advanced Technology with Universal Music Group, Adam Sosinsky, VP of New Technology with Sony Music Entertainment, and Mark Waldrep, founder/president of AIX Records. Belcher showed a clip from The Police: Certifiable, which was shot live in Buenos Aires, while Sosinsky spotlighted The Promise: The Making of Darkness On The Edge of Town, a three-CD/three-Blu-ray homage to Bruce Springsteen’s mid-Seventies success, including unreleased tracks and a 90-minute HBO documentary. Waldrep offered samples from a number of live-performance shoots, including Rita Coolidge performing “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” Mozart’s Clarinet, Horn and String Quartets with The Old City String Quartet, Hanna-McEuen playing “Heart Broken” and Ernest Rangelin reviving “My Boy Lollipop.”
“This past June, we shot several 3D Music Albums using HD video and high-definition, 7.1 and 5.1-channel sound,” Waldrep told conference attendees. “We have no audience, which means that we eliminate PA systems that can compromise audiophile quality.”
“A live concert is the best way of seeing music from marquee artists,” Universal’s Belcher considered. “It’s the best seat in the house with great audio” via Blu-ray. “Video is now important to the promotion of talent,” reflected Sony’s Sosinsky. “From MTV to the Internet, music videos on Blu-ray are very popular – for example, YouTube’s most popular offerings are music videos, with 407 million streams per month. Video is big for today’s music. We are also considering seven music albums in 3D for the coming Christmas season.” Universal has similar 3D plans, Belcher revealed.
Both AIX and Universal are planning to release additional audio-only Blu-ray releases with multichannel uncompressed soundtracks.