If you go and see it, you must, must, must see it in 3D.

It’s a visual spectacular – brilliant CGI, so well done that sometimes I could hardly tell what was and what wasn’t computer generated except for the fact that some of the things I was seeing just don’t exist on this planet, and couldn’t, either.

Arguably the plot is derivative and a little cliched, the point it makes hamfistedly obvious – don’t destroy the planet we have because it is what sustains us, literally – and some of the actual script is a little clunky or obvious.

But the thing is, the plot almost comes secondary to the absolute sheer beauty and spectacular nature of the whole thing. This whole different world that the writers have imagined up, with creatures that work in a whole different ecosystem and whose evolution you can, up to a point, actually guess at – it’s incredibly cohesive and some of the things they imagine are truly original.

I really enjoyed it – it was long, perhaps more than three hours, but it really didn’t feel like it, I was completely captivated. And so yes, if you get the chance, go – watch it. In 3D. And to be honest think of it like going to a show rather than like going to the cinema – forgive it its weaknesses of plot or dialogue and see it as, well, a spectacle. It’s amazing what they can do with 3D, and how they do it.

Actually, how *do* they do it? How do they make sure that the image, which without the correct goggles looks like you’re seeing in double vision onscreen, with things that are nearer to you more split than things which are further away – how on earth do they make sure that your left eye recieves one half of that image and your right eye the other half to give you the illusion of depth perception? I know each lens is differently polarised, so how does that mean that it only picks up the left or the right eye’s given view? Anyone? Callan, Dickie, Martin? (why do boys always know these things?). Alright, girls, do your worst, beat the boys to it… *sigh*.


Filed under Art, Film, Happenings, Thoughts, Women

14 responses to “Avatar

  1. Not seen it, not too fussed either.

    A filter is put in front of the projection lens which polarises the light coming from it. It’s pretty clever in the case of Avatar because the frames for the left and right eyes are displayed alternately, and the filter changes the type of polarisation for each frame. The light from the projector is circularly polarised; light for one eye is polarised in a clockwise direction, and anticlockwise for the other. The lenses in the glasses are polarised in the same way, and light which is polarised in a clockwise way can’t go through a lens polarised the opposite way, so each eye only sees one image. In other words, the light from images intended for the right eye cannot go through the lens on the glasses that’s in front of the left eye, and vice versa.

    That translates into a 3D view because the images for each eye are subtly different (hence the ghosting without the glasses). A good demonstration of the reasoning behind this is that if you hold your finger out in front of you, both eyes see slightly different parts of it. If you look past your finger, you’ll see two fingers and if you move it away, the two images get closer together. The brain uses these different perspectives to work out where an object is in space, so by giving each eye different images through the polarising filter on the film projector and the glasses, you can trick the brain into seeing the film in 3d. It’s called stereoscopy and it’s the same theory behind “magic eye” pictures and the like.

    A few years ago I saw a TFT monitor which can replicate 3D images without any extra equipment. Was pretty cool, but I have no idea how that works.

  2. Adam

    I can’t watch it in 3D… the problem with my eye means 3D doesn’t work for me, it’s medically impossible… 😦 Same with ‘magic-eye’ type pictures…

  3. Jenny

    Thank you :). That was all just exactly at the right level for me and I really understood it – thanks :). Is the 3D aspect of Avatar markedly more advanced than other current 3D films then? It felt more real than say Up. It really was worth seeing – I was sceptical until a few friends gave it wildly positive reviews and I changed my mind and went along with it and really enjoyed it.

    And I always wonder how do you see the world, Adam, but then I guess you’ve never seen it how I see it, so…

  4. There’s a load of films that use the same technology apparently, so any of those should be as good, I would’ve thought :-S

    I’m not that fussed cos it doesn’t look that good, and I wear glasses anyway so I guess that the 3d stuff would be fun for about 5 minutes and then an annoying gimmick for the rest of the film…

    @Adam: what’s wrong with your eye?

  5. Flix

    I wasn’t planning on seeing it before it came out, or even when it came out. It wasn’t until I heard rave reviews from everyone who’d seen it that I decided I definitely had to go, and I definitely had to see it in 3D and massive screen and surround sound and everything that makes the cinema such an experience. It was good and the imagery is fantastic. And it’s awfully cliched and predictable, but beautiful at the same time. Lovely and a wonderful respite from revision hell.

    I remember doing something in physics about 3D and eyes and lenses and such and knew it was vaguely about polarization of light, but couldn’t have explained it without looking it up….

  6. Ah, I think the cinema I saw it in used linear polarisation, because if I tilted my head, I started seeing the double-image.

    Linear polarisation is easier to understand than circular. Light is normally depicted as a kind of wiggly wave. You can have another light wave travelling in the same direction by rotating that wave by 90 degrees, so one’s vibrating up-and-down, and one’s vibrating side-to-side.

    A polariser just absorbs light vibrating along one direction. So say you have a polariser with side-to-side vibrating light passing through it, the up-and-down light is totally blocked. You rotate that same polariser by 90 degrees, and it now lines up with the light vibrating up and down, but blocks the light vibrating side-to-side.

    Anyways, polarisation is awesome fun to play with because lots of things cause light to become polarised. For instance, reflection changes the polarisation of light, so you get sunglasses which are polarising to exploit this to cut down on reflection glare.

    LCD screens also rely on polarisation. An LCD screen has a polariser, the liquid crystal, and then another polariser at 90 degrees to the first one, then a backlight or reflector. What the liquid crystal does is allow you to change the orientation of the polarisation as it passes through the crystal. If it doesn’t change it at all, half the light is blocked at the first polariser, and the rest at the second. You then turn on the electricity, the liquid crystal lines up, and causes the polarisation of the light passing through it to be rotated.

    So light passing through it has one polarisation blocked at the 1st polariser, it’s rotated into the other polarisation and passes through the 2nd polariser.

    Which is how LCD displays work! It’s all good.

    So yes, if you have a pair of sunglasses, check if they’re polarising by looking through them at an LCD screen, and rotating them. The screen will appear to change brightness. Other experiments: look at the sky reflected in an LCD screen. Or if you go to another 3D film, grab a friend’s glasses, and look through one of their lenses with yours, and rotate them relative to each other.

    The TFT monitor that displays 3D with no other equipment has twice the horizontal pixel density of a normal screen, and an odd arrangement of lenses or something to ensure that one picture ended up on the left side, and one picture on the right side. It works really well as long as you don’t want large horizontal viewing angles.

    Personally, as hypothetical display technologies go, I’m really looking forward to someone making practical holographic displays. Holograms are really terribly astonishing, they’re like looking at a real object. More to the point, your point of view actually changes as you move your head! They’re ace. All you need to make a simple one is a laser, some mirrors, a lens or two, photographic film and a photographic darkroom.

  7. Adam

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.

    @Jenny – I see the world as most people do… There’s people, trees, animals, colours, shapes and snow… Sure, I can’t watch 3D films, see magic eyes, or ever have a pilot’s license – but who wants to do those things… right?!?

    @ Dickie – I have a divergent strabismus… Basically my left eye doesn’t look straight, it looks slightly to the left (it diverges from the centre of my face) When I was first born my strabismus was convergent (left eye facing inward – cross-eyed) In strabimus sufferers, during early years, the brain realises that it shouldn’t be seeing two of everything, so it shuts off one eye.

    I had corrective surgery to straighten the eye, and a few months of wearing a patch covering my right eye, to try to re-build strength in my left eye. However, the eye was over-corrected, and my brain began to realise that my vision was still not right – so shut down the eye again. I’ve been had monocular vision since i was about 5 or 6.

    Technically, my left eye works perfectly (although it’s weaker, so my reading glasses are stronger on one eye than the other) it’s just the brain knows the information coming in isn’t right, so ignores it!!

  8. Jenny

    Oh I see… that’s actually really interesting; the way teh brain works to correct or at least damage control the problem by just accepting input from yor right eye. So if you close your right eye can you see anything with the left?

  9. Adam

    Yes, I can see with my left eye. Things are quite blurry, I can’t really read with it, and wouldn’t want to drive with it – but there’s some vision there!! When both eyes are open, my left eye serves as only peripheral vision. Which isn’t too bad, it just means I have a slightly odd sense of depth perception!!! This is why I hated things like sport at school – because I have a great trouble catching things!!

  10. Jenny

    heh, so do I, and I have no excuse. I seem to have finally got hte hang of catching things now though, so I don’t know why it was so elusive before. It still scares me though, when someone throws me something, in case I drop it, mainly because it’d be embarassing if I did…!!

  11. “More to the point, your point of view actually changes as you move your head! ”

    Like this? (probably the most entertaining thing you can do with a Wii Remote…)

    I could actually do with something like this for my pooter. When I play games across monitors, the outermost things are really distorted to fit the FOV. Which is ok if you look straight on, but weird if you look to either side. I digress.

    @Adam: I see why the 3D thang wont work then…

  12. What’s really interesting is that you can get a set of glasses which turn your view upside-down. Apparently, after a while, your brain corrects for that and flips the view the right way.

    Only trouble is, it takes a while for your brain to sort it back out once you take the glasses off.


    Yeh, a bit like that, except you don’t have to wear anything! The hologram (almost) exactly replicates the original light waves given off by the object, so it’s exactly like looking at a real object.

  13. How do holograms work, then?

    @Dickie I really liked that video about using the Wii remote to change the point of view as your move your head. That is so cool. Question is would they need to write new games to incorporate that or would it work if gamers at home did whatever they had to do to get that effect and then continued playing normal Wii games? I suspect not, but don’t know enough to really comment.

  14. Forgot to answer! Yep, they’d need to write new games to take advantage of the point of view thing. It uses the Wii remote in a way that it wasn’t really designed for, so no games currently available are written for it.

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