Why does Avatar: The Way of Water look different to other films? High frame rate explained

James Cameron has returned to the world of Pandora for the first time in 13 years

The long-awaited sequel to Avatar has finally arrived in cinemas.

It has been 13 years since James Cameron first introduced the world to the visually spectacular world of Pandora. The Hollywood legend wowed audiences with his use of 3D in the 2009 sci-fi epic.

In the years that followed, many other films also featured 3D releases but perhaps not implemented to the same level as Avatar. For his grand return to Pandora, Cameron is hoping to wow audiences all over again with his use of High Frame Rates.

Avatar: The Way of Water was released in cinemas in the UK on Friday (16 December), 13 years after the original movie came out. If you are planning to watch the sequel over the Christmas holiday, here is all you need to know:

Why does Avatar 2 look different?

The sequel to James Cameron’s Oscar nominated sci-fi epic will once again be released in 3D. But as well as this it be shown at a high frame rate than you would usually expect from other films.

Avatar: The Way of Water has 48 frames per second in sections, compared with the traditional 24 FPS. It is the latest high profile film to attempt to use a higher frame rate.

CNBC explains in a report that the action scenes and underwater scenes in Avatar 2 will be presented at 48FPS. Meanwhile the rest of the film will be shown at 24 FPS.

Other recent examples include Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which also featured a frame rate of 48. Two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee is also a fan of using high frame rates in his films, with his two most recent movies Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and Gemini Man both having an FPS of 120.

Television is traditionally broadcast at a slightly higher frame rate than films, opting to use a FPS of 30 instead of the 24 used in cinemas. If you play video games, you might be more aware of frame rates as games often include options to play at 30FPS or 60FPS, with high end PCs offering even higher options.

James Cameron is planning on releasing Titanic in February 2023 with an increased frame rate of 48 FPS. The Oscar winning film has been converted with TrueCut Motion.

Avatar: The Way of the Water is showing in 3D at the Arc Cinema in Hucknall. Photo: 20th Century Studios

What is a frame rate?

Put simply a frame rate is the frequency at which consecutive images are captured or displayed. Human’s can process between 10 and 12 images per second.

In the early days of silent films, movies had frame rates of anywhere between 16 and 24 frames per second, by the 1920s this had increased to 20 to 26 FPS. When sound began to be introduced to movies post-1926, the industry settled on 24 FPS as the standard.

Richard Miller, executive vice president of technology at Pixelworks, told CNBC: “When filmmakers make a movie, they try to instill a suspense of disbelief. You can only really get there with the 24 frames per second look. If you try a high frame rate look, you ruin the suspense of disbelief.

“The old way of doing high frame rate makes it look like sports or a documentary or a soap opera, and it kind of disengages that storytelling zone. I think everybody who has a recent TV, they’ve seen it.”

What has James Cameron said about the Avatar 2?

James Cameron says the inspiration and “imagery” for some of his biggest films has come to him in his dreams. Asked on The One Show about finding inspiration in dreams, he said: “(yes), Terminator, dreams, Avatar… I just think the dreams are my own private streaming service that runs every night for free.

“I guess I do a lot of work in my dreams and I see a lot of imagery, sometimes they get up and write it down sometimes. With some of the stuff for Avatar when I was in college, I jumped up and did paintings… so this has been going on for a while, right.”

“I’ve always had dreams of being underwater with amazing animals swimming around and that sort of thing, so it’s just kind of working all that subconscious imagery out,” Cameron told The One Show. “I think we all are screenwriters in our heads every night. We’re all telling ourselves stories, one part of our brain puts on a show for the other part of the brain.

“I think screenwriters just figure out a way to formalise that and get it out onto the paper.”