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James Cameron Talks Avatar

Published August 7, 2008 in Movie News
By Ryan Parsons | Image property of respective holders, Hollywood Reporter
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You know you're popular when you have a film that is not even a year from release and it remains the hot topic. So goes it for James Cameron's Avatar, a film that is expected to use 'visionary' new filmmaking techniques that allow the seamless blend of live-action and computer animation.

Cameron's Avatar

Avatar has already been in the works for two and a half years and Cameron reports that, upon completion, we can expect about 60% CG animation and the rest live-action.

"It is the most challenging film I've ever made," Cameron tells Hollywood Reporter.

Unlike most big-budget production nowadays, Cameron promises to not let the visuals distract from the storytelling.

"You have to make a good film that would be a good film under any circumstances," he said. "You have to put the narrative first. The reality is no matter how many (3-D) screens we get, you are still going to have a large number of people -- possibly the majority of people -- who see the film in a 2-D environment."

As you might have guessed, Cameron's sole focus on the project at the moment is CG production.

"The way we developed the performance capture workflow on 'Avatar" is we have our virtual camera, which allows me to, in real time, hold a camera -- it's really a monitor -- in my hands and point it at the actors and see them as their CG chartacters," Cameron said.

"That is going though facial algorithms and going back into the camera as a real-time CG face of the character," the helmer said. "You see it talk; you see the eyes move. It is pretty phenomenal.

"Once we've laid down a take, the take exists in the digital asset management system," he said. "It an be accessed at any time. Long after the actors have gone home, I'm still out there with the virtual camera, shooting coverage on the scene. I just have to play the take back. I can do the close up, the wide shot. ... I can even move them around on a limited basis. We relight it. We do all kinds of things.

"It's this amazing ability to quickly conjure scenes and images and great fantasyscapes that is very visual. We call it 'director centric' because I can use the camera to block the actors," Cameron related. "When you are doing performance capture, creatively it's very daunting. It's very hard to imagine what it will look like. But if you can see it, if you can have a virtual image of what is it going to be like, then you are there. As the processing power goes up our models get more sophisticated and our lighting tools get more sophisticated, even while we are making this movie. I'm still doing a lot of virtual camera work on the film ... on stuff that was shot six months ago."

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Compiled By (Sources)
Ryan Parsons
Sources: Image property of respective holders, Hollywood Reporter

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