Avatar Comes Home: 3D and the Death of DVD
by Chuck Tryon — Fayetteville State University
November 10, 2011 – 00:00
When James Cameron’s 3D space epic, Avatar, was first being promoted, the movie was promoted as something that audiences had to experience on the big screen in order to fully appreciate the technological spectacle that Cameron had created. At the same time, however, publicity for the film was also careful to emphasize that audiences would become so immersed in both the visuals and the narrative that they would "forget" about the technologies that produced the breathtaking images of Pandora. As Cameron himself put it, "Ideally, the technology is advanced enough to make itself go away. That’s how it should work. All of the technology should wave its own wand and make itself disappear."
Despite these promises of unmediated visual pleasure, viewers of Avatar were constantly treated to "behind-the-scenes" images of Cameron shooting with cameras he had helped to invent, images that are seemingly meant to reassure us that Avatar would "revolutionize" cinema. Such promises about revolutionizing the movie indutsry were complicated several months afterwards when the DVD version. Because studios hoped that Avatar would revive flagging DVD sales, observers were especially attentive to how audiences would respond to the challenge of marketing a movie that was meant to be seen on the big screen.
Because of these conflicting issues, I find this advertisement for Panasonic’s Viera high-definition TV fascinating. Grounding the technology of their image in Cameron’s reputation as a technological auteur, the advertisement promises us that a viewer can "immerse yourself" in the world of the film, adding that families can "bring the director’s vision home." Like other advertisements for new technologies, Panasonic positions us as experts—on both new media technlogies and on movie culture. We see Cameron shooting with the camera he invented and then a family gathered around a Panasonic TV screen, completely caught up in the world he created.
Panasonic’s advertisement is part of a larger genre of advertisements that seem to be navigating the dilemmas associated with digital delivery: How do we protect declining DVD sales? What happens to theatrical exhibition when home theaters offer an "immersive" experience? Where do movies go when we can bring Avatar home?
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