20th Century Studios and Disney raced against the clock to get a mind-boggling number of different versions of Avatar: The Way of Water ready for cinemas in December 2022. They produced over a thousand different versions of the science fiction movie, so that each one would be perfectly calibrated to the movie theatre where it was shown.
And despite there being a thirteen year gap between Avatar 1 and 2, a massive international team were still working on the sequel just days before release. Now that the technology has been established, Avatar 3‘s release hopefully won’t be as much of a time-crunch though. With digital cinema, theatres vary greatly in their screening capabilities. For Avatar: The Way of Water, this involved the creation of a whopping 1,065 unique ‘delivery versions’ of the movie.
This unheard-of number of varieties included combinations of 2D, 3D, HDR, 4K, with varying light levels, aspect ratios, and a high frame rate of 48 frames per second. As for sound – a range of audio formats was required, as well as 51 languages supported with subtitles and 28 languages supported by dubbing.
Avatar 2’s 1000 different versions is twice as many as their usually are for a Marvel movie, for comparison. The movie had to be divided into 15 ‘reels,’ allowing the team to begin working on it before it was even finished. Roughly 800 versions of the movie were reviewed for quality control in the final five days before release.
“We didn’t have the movie together until about 16 days before the release date. We moved reel by reel because we couldn’t wait. The thing I’m most proud of was the level of collaboration and innovation,” Walt Disney Studio’s Kim Beresford explained at a panel, via The Hollywood Reporter.
It was worth all of the effort, as Avatar 2 is one of only six movies in history to have crossed the two billion mark at the box office. It’s highly likely to win the Oscar for special effects in March. While we wait for that, check out our guide to the best fantasy movies.