A few weeks ago I wrote for Forbes about how I was afraid Disney would screw up their long-awaited 4K Blu-ray release Avatar: The Way of Water attempting to cram the entire 167-minute film onto the single 66GB disc used for each of its previous 4K Blu-ray releases. Something that would inevitably lead to large amounts of potentially image quality that would destroy video compression.
However, today I’m really happy to report that Disney has unexpectedly broken with tradition and decided to release Avatar 2 June 20 using the 100 GB disc (the largest Blu-ray disc available) that such a long and beautiful film clearly deserves.
I wish I could take credit for this significant change in Disney’s 4K Blu-ray process, but in reality there’s no question given how long it takes to press 4K Blu-ray formats these days when Disney made the 100GB disc decision – probably with ‘input’ from James Cameron – many moons ago.
It’s interesting (and refreshing), however, to see how far Disney has gone in the press materials it sent out today to highlight Avatar: The Way of Water Technical capabilities of 4K Blu-ray transmission. So, aside from telling us specifically that the 4K UHD version will be on a 100GB disc (with the HD Blu-ray getting a 50GB disc and the DVD an 8.5GB disc), we’re told that the 4K UHD transfer will be shipped with 60.5 Average Bit Rate (ABR). This last piece of information is provided to make it absolutely clear that moving to a 100GB drive will enable Avatar: The Way of Water stream from disc at typically far higher bitrates than we’ve seen in previous lengthy Disney 4K Blu-ray releases such as Avengers: Endgame.
I should emphasize that the quality of the 4K Blu-ray image does not only depend on the capacity of the disc and the resulting possible video speeds. The encoding package/process used, for example, can also play a role in the final image quality results. But Disney breaking its previous 66GB disc 4K Blu-ray ‘rule’ must help. Probably a lot.
Besides being a great thing for Avatar: The Way of Water 4K Blu-ray itself, Disney’s decision to release the film on a 100GB disc also bodes well for the studio’s previously somewhat lean approach to 4K Blu-ray. If Disney can come up with the disc-capacity box it’s been stuck with for the better part of six years for this (albeit marquee) release, investing a little more in its production to give 4K Blu-ray fans more of the quality they’ve come to expect, then maybe now be more open to treating other editions on a multiple-title-by-title basis.
With this in mind, perhaps it’s a shame that Disney didn’t quite go for it The way of water 4K Blu-ray returning to providing a Dolby Vision HDR master (something it mysteriously abandoned with its 4K Blu-ray files after the initial release The Last Jedi). Especially as a fan favorite produced by James Cameron Alita: Battle Angel it supported both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ premium HDR formats when it came out on 4K Blu-ray (under the Fox label, of course).
Still, it’s always best to take our victories where we find them. So let’s celebrate the fact that home cinema/James Cameron fans can start counting down the days until The way of waterA 4K Blu-ray release is a safe bet given that Disney has at least given the picture quality of this ground-breaking film room to breathe.
If you’re wondering what else Avatar: The Way of Water 4K Blu-ray will have to offer beyond its disc capacity, Disney’s press release reveals that it will boast a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundtrack, a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the following long list of bonus features:
- Memories from Avatar – Producer Jon Landau has a lively conversation with cast members Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, recalling fond memories from the production and reflecting on the film’s extraordinary success Avatar.
- Avatar: A Look Back – In this retrospective, the actors and filmmakers reflect on their remarkable journey Avatarthe revolutionary technologies they used to create an unparalleled cinematic experience, and the profound effect the film had on audiences around the world.
- Capturing Avatar – Travel with James Cameron and crew in this feature-length documentary as they embark on a film the likes of which the world has never seen.
- Part 1 – After years of testing, research and design, James Cameron took the plunge Avatar“the most complex film” of his legendary career.
- Part 2 – Actors and technology are pushed to the limit as James Cameron pushes the boundaries of a revolutionary new film paradigm.
- Part 3 – James Cameron used revolutionary technology to merge the virtual and live elements of his film
- Part 4 – The editing room became the starting point as the music, sound and visual effects were finalized to determine the film’s release date.
Take a closer look at Pandora’s creation and craftsmanship Avatar with short films on key aspects of production design, performance capture and the post-production process.
- Sculpture Avatar – Explore how clay models are sculpted to aid in rendering Avatarcharacters and creatures for life
- The Making of the Banshee – Discover everything that went into designing the Banshee, the high-flying predators of the Pandoran skies
- Making Thanator – James Cameron and team reveal how the most fearsome beast in the Pandoran rainforest was brought to the screen
- AMP Suit – Explore the design of the AMP (Augmented Mobility Platform) and discover why it was the perfect weapon for Colonel Quaritch
- Flying Vehicles – Explore the design of RDA’s fighter planes and how they helped ground the story in a realistic world that audiences can relate to
- Na’vi costumes – Discover costumes Avatar and why it was necessary to create real-world costumes for characters seen only in the virtual world
- Speaking Na’vi – Immerse yourself in the complex Na’vi language it was created for Avatarand a challenging task for the cast who had to speak it
- Pandora Flora – Explore the science behind the Pandoran rainforest, including exotic plants and bioluminescence
- Stunts – James Cameron and AvatarStunt coordinators discuss how they learned to move like a Na’vi, ride a Leonopteryx and more
- Performance Capture – Discover how the actions, emotions and spirit of actors are captured in performance and transferred into a virtual character
- Virtual Camera – Discover the virtual camera system that allowed James Cameron to apply camera angles, lighting and movement to his scenes long after the performance stage was over
- 3D Fusion Camera – Explore the newly designed 3D Fusion camera system that has enabled filmmakers to create an immersive stereographic experience
- Simul-Cam – See how the newly created Simul-Cam seamlessly integrated the virtual world with the live action camera, allowing Jake’s avatar to appear in a scene with real-world actors
- Editing Avatar – James Cameron and the film’s editors reveal the unique challenges they faced during editing Avatarand the benefits of “learning as you go
- Scoring Avatar – Composer James Horner and James Cameron discuss how the Avatar score was grounded in the familiar while conjuring up a breathtaking new world
- Sound Design – Explore Pandora sounds including Banshee, Direhorse and Thanator, as well as engineer sounds for Dragon, Scorpion and more in the near future
- The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand – On the final day of production, stuntmen from New Zealand treated James Cameron to the traditional Haka dance
The one thing Disney has to do with its “Avatar: Path of Water” 4K Blu-ray — but probably won’t
Forbes – Innovation