James Cameron's Updates on Avatar Status
One of the few people we're desperately in need of an update from is James Cameron, who is currently working on his sci-fi 3D movie Avatar. Thankfully Harry from AICN got in touch with him just yesterday and he talked about all the latest with Avatar, including how technically complex and time consuming it is, and also how groundbreaking it just may be. This sounds like an animated Pixar project - they're already two years in and have a year and a half to go of actual work as they prepare for its release in December of 2009. With every new day and every new update on Avatar, I get that much more excited for what this movie will bring.
A few days ago a bland and boring new photo from Avatar was revealed, but Cameron confirms that it isn't from him and isn't actually related to the movie. He goes on to explain that while they've finished principal photography, Steve Quale is out shooting second unit footage and they still have more performance capture work to do with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang that could last until April or May. And even with Lang, who is the last on Cameron's schedule to shoot, he explains that the scene "is so technically difficult it will take us until then to figure out how to do it."
Things are going well on Avatar, or at least as well as can be expected on such a ridiculously complex project. We've wrapped principal, and most of the live action portion of the movie is already cut. It's starting to look and sound like a movie. I'm ecstatic with the performances and the look. The cast chemistry worked out perfectly.
When working on a movie like this, that involves both extensive principal live-action photography and motion capture, as well as groundbreaking 3D and CGI work, time is the most essential aspect. Cameron has previously said that "the film will be composed of 60% computer-generated elements and 40% live action, as well as traditional miniatures" and is a hybrid movie that's based on a full live-action shoot combined with computer-generated characters and live environments. While I wish I could better explain what exactly Cameron is doing, there really is no way to even guess at any of what we'll see come December of '09.
You can see how spread out the schedule is -- it's just the nature of this type of CG animation/live action hybrid. Most of my time now is spent editing, because on this type of film you edit every CG scene twice -- once to edit the raw performance capture, before it goes to virtual camera, and then again when you have the virtual camera shots, you do the final edit of the scene. It's very complex and taxing, but the result is amazing. The Weta animators are ON FIRE, and seeing the world and the creatures come to life is what keeps us going. There's a spirit on this film, an esprit de corps amongst the virtual team, that comes from knowing we're doing something absolutely groundbreaking. It's why people still have good morale after working on this thing for two years or more. And we still have more than a year and a half to go. I don't know if this will be a good film, great film, awful film, but I can say with absolute certainty that you will see stuff you've never imagined, and that the process of making this film will generate a lot of interest within the technical side of the biz.
Although they've been working for two years, Cameron explains that the actual CGI and final frames won't be rendered until next year, where they'll go into an all out "frenzy" to render everything by the release date. This filmmaking process and animation process has evolved quite a bit even in just the two years of time that he's been working on it, and I can only imagine the doors it will open once the film arrives. I've previously heard other big name directors like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have stepped into the studios to check out the technology and have been amazed by it. That's certainly impressive to hear, not to mention the enthusiasm Cameron has when talking about it.
Avatar is the last film listed on the 2009 Release Schedule, and it's a relief because thankfully that gives us the time we need to get through every other anticipated movie in the way. When December 18th, 2009 rolls around, be ready to experience something truly breathtaking, groundbreaking, and possibly life-changing. I already can feel it coming and I'm already anxious for it, even 22 months out.