Is It Better to Watch 'Avatar: The Way of Water' in 3D or HFR Format?

What is the difference between 3D and HFR formats? Which way should you see 'Avatar 2'? A look at what each format is and how they affect viewers.

Katherine Stinson - Author

Dec. 16 2022, Published 12:06 p.m. ET

Neytiri (Zoe Saldana)
Source: 20th Century Studios

It's been more than a decade since the events of James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar, and while many things have changed onscreen and offscreen for the film, some aspects of the tale have remained the same, Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) are still very much together, now with a young brood of their own. However, humans still want to attack Pandora.

On a better note, the visual quality of Avatar: The Way of Water looks far better than its 2009 predecessor.

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Now that Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters, fans are debating about the best way to watch the film to enjoy its full visual splendor. So why are people mentioning an HFR format? What's the difference between HFR and 3D? Here's what we know.

One of Jake and Neytiri's children
Source: 20th Century Studios
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What's the difference between 3D and HFR? Or, rather: What is 3D with HFR?

HFR stands for high frame rates. Typically a film will run at 24 frames per second — so viewing something in an HFR format means you're watching it at a higher frame rate than the industry standard.

So why would you want to do that? Per Mashable, HFR has actually caused some moviegoers to feel nauseated (probably because our brains are so used to 24 FPS?).

With this format, a film can take on "a more 'realistic' visual texture. Everything is so smooth, it’s as if the actors are in the room with you," the outlet notes.

It appears that Avatar: The Way of Water is utilizing the HFR for certain 3D versions of the film, and only for certain scenes (mainly underwater ones).

And apparently not all theater chains are advertising whether their 3D versions feature the HFR experience, so may have to ask.

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It seems that if you're seeing the regular 2D version, none of this will apply. As James Cameron himself explained to Yahoo: "The one thing I will say pretty definitively is that 48 frames doesn't benefit a 2D movie very much, if at all. It's really about making a better experience in 3D."

And apparently not everyone loves the HFR experience, so it's up to you which version suits you best.

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Sam Adams of Slate experienced the HFR in Avatar: The Way of Water, and wrote this about his experience: "For me, high frame rates make it feel less like you’re watching a movie and more like you’re on the set watching it get made. When I watched The Hobbit in 3D HFR, I didn’t see Bilbo Baggins—I saw the actor playing him."

He added, "My reaction to watching Avatar: The Way of Water in HFR started off the same way, even though Cameron applies the HFR more selectively than [Peter Jackson, the director of The Hobbit] did." According to Sam's report, HFR is utilized more in action/setting scenes, as opposed to character driven moments in Avatar: The Way of the Water. He mentioned that eventually he got used to the HFR.

Do you have plans to see the three-hour, 12-minute long film? Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now.

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