This Side of Psychedelic: Avatar and Color Gamut

Monday, December 21, 2009

Posted December 21, 2009 by Jennifer Davis

A lot has been said about James Cameron creating Avatar for the medium of 3D.  Volumes have been written about how he staged the movie and made decisions based on the new toolset presented by 3D, but after watching the movie I was struck by something else entirely.  Avatar wasn’t created for 3D, as much as it was created for a wide color gamut.

Allow me to explain.  On opening night, Avatar was playing in 3D and IMAX 3D theaters, alongside a 2D showing.  Clearly, ol’ James is a pragmatist.  He knew that not everyone would spring for the extra ticket price (although I have heard the ratio was like 10:1).  But, EVERY theater showing utilized a color gamut called DCI, which insider’s may know as the Digital Cinema Initiative.  It is a wide color space that allows the plants to be shades of bright lime as red flying animals pepper broad skies.

It is a broad and rich color palette (combined with contrast) that allows the night scene in the jungle to jump off the screen when fluorescent plants glow on a dark background.  Even subtleties, like the little embedded lights in the alien skin (think fiber optic), is made possible with a wide color gamut.  Due to a optical phenomenon called the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch Effect, perceived brightness is based both on luminance (brightness as measured from the lens of the projector in lumens or off the screen in foot Lamberts) and chromaticity (color saturation).

A narrower color gamut (as defined by points on a CIE chromaticity chart) lead to flatter, duller imagery.  Most flat panel televisions and home projectors can hit about 70% of NTSC (the standard for television broadcasts which is the common metric for measuring color space in home entertainment for reasons we can’t quite defend, but that is an entirely different rant).  Runco’s home theater projection products are proud to accurately recreate REC-709 standards which have been the standard for movie distribution since the days of film. 

But, in typical fashion, Runco is innovating and setting new standards.
We have told you before about the QuantumColor projector from Runco, the Q-750i.  It comes with DCI color space as a pre-set.  However, if you want to enjoy even more of the dimensionality that is possible with brilliant, vibrant colors made possible by an InfiniLight™ LED illumination system, you have additional options.   The Runco Q-750i includes a proprietary color space is a whopping 135% of NTSC and takes you beyond the bounds of DCI.  Colors like cyan (which is the blue-green shades) and red are where this color gamut really shines.   With this color space and our architecture, lights really do seem to “light up” the screen.  Somehow, I think it is poetic that we called this color gamut “Native” in our menu structure, because it is the scenes of the native creatures and their homeland on Pandora that will look absolutely incredible in our Native mode.

And if it doesn’t exactly suit your taste, our included Personal Color Equalizer lets you dial up and down the colors along 6-axies (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow).  We put you in the director’s seat, if you dare.

I can’t wait to see the movie again, but I won’t watch it again in a commercial theater.   It has just wetted my appetite to see it on a video device that can really portray the luminance and magic of Pandora.  I can’t wait to see it on a Runco QuantumColor projector and to experience the unbelievable world Cameron created,  in a color space that is out of this world.

I am convinced that after people see this movie on a Runco QuantumColor projector in our Native color gamut, they will forget about Cameron’s previous movie about the boat.

~Jennifer is a Linfield College Wildcat and has enjoyed her work with Runco for the past 3 years. In her spare time she enjoys running, golfing, working in the garden, and trying new things in the kitchen.

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