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First Tease of Early 'Avatar 2' Test Footage Just Screened at Siggraph

by
July 24, 2013
Source: THR

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Time to geek out fellow sci-fi nerds! This isn't really news, per se, there isn't anything to reveal, and no new information about Avatar 2 was mentioned. However, if you're a James Cameron devotee like me (and many of my friends), this is a must read kind of update anyway. The first footage ever, as far as we know, from Avatar 2 was recently screened at the Siggraph computer graphics convention in California this past weekend. It was early test footage being presented as a "live capture" experience with high quality rendering in virtual production software, but nonetheless was an early tease at what they're doing in the sci-fi sequel.

Producer Jon Landau was on hand at Siggraph over the weekend to present a "behind-the-scenes look at some of the early tests toward making James Cameron's Avatar sequels." The report comes from Hollywood Reporter (via SlashFilm) where they comment ever-so-briefly on some of the footage they were shown. As is usual, at this point everything is still a work in progress and even Landau reminded them that they are "still not there," however progress is being made to improve the virtual production tools and techniques required.

He then showed a series of clips, starting with a live capture created on a stage last November, which was set on Pandora and featured a human as well as the Na'vi. "This was our first foray into what we wanted to do," Landau told the audience, pointing to noticeable improvements in aspects of the image including lighting and shadows.

The next examples came out of Autodesk’s virtual production software Motion Builder, and again showed a notable advancement in quality. "Ultimately our goal is to get to this on stage [for live capture]," he said. "This is gong to allow Jim to light the scenes and make the process more efficient ... and focus on what is most important—the close up. Movies about storytelling."

Indeed, though maybe he meant to say movies are about storytelling. It sounds like they're acutely aware of the biggest criticism of Avatar - the story wasn't that great. However, now that we've been introduced to the Na'vi and the entire world of Pandora, they can tell a much richer story in the sequels. Or so we hope. THR mentions that Cameron still has deals with Autodesk and Weta to work on the VFX on the sci-fi movies, but they're honing their own proprietary production tools in the meantime. Jon Landau seems optimistic about these new tools and how they'll even help young filmmakers without as much money as James Cameron. He explained the improvements they've made are "a great thing for young filmmakers. We are about preserving the filmmaking experience.. I think the future is very bright for Autodesk [website] and for filmmakers."

We'll continue to keep an eye out for any other news, or geeky updates, on James Cameron and the Avatar sequels, still stated for release starting in 2015. Avatar 2 & 3 should further invigorate this new era of sci-fi.

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  • N.
    Well at least it's moving. I'm anxious to see what else Jim can do to this universe! He does have a good Track Record with Sequels so that is good! I have faith!
  • VFX Soldier
    Is Jim Cameron going to pay the previsualization artists over time on Avatar 2 this time or is he going to get away with not paying them and claim he made the second one for even less?
  • Chris Groves
    I'm excited. Look, the first film had no franchise awareness going for it, it was a hugely expensive and production-wise was a VERY daring and risky venture. So yes, the story was quite classic(though not nearly as derivative as some say). For example...look at how sort of 'by the numbers' the original Star Wars story is. The youth, the mentor, the sidekicks, the sort of edgy/outlaw comrade, the bad-guy...it has a lot of standard adventure tropes(plenty taken from westerns and other well-known morality tales) except that it's in space. But The Empire Strikes back used that set-up to springboard into a story that was very much it's own thing. It used the stage that was set and just played in the established universe and did interesting things with the characters.
    • David Banner
      It needed no franchise awareness, it's called Monomyth or The Hero's Journey. It's a formula for successful storytelling that has grossed 10's of $ Billions combined in all media forms. It will be used again, in Avatar 2, 3 and 4. And in Star Wars VII, VIII and IX. Go read Joseph Campbell's book, it's an eye opener. And a page turner.
      • Chris Groves
        I have. More than once.
    • Snev De la Fontaine
      A New Hope is a classic 'by the numbers' story, but it did more than transpose it into space. It took something that worked and made it its own by strengthening its elements. Except dialogue and acting. Although even there there are some great exceptions. The problem with Avatar is that it didn't do that. It was a derivative story transposed and stretched out to smear a lot of good (although again uninspired) special effects all over it. To top, it had a holier-than-thou and preachy attitude, which you don't get to have if you have nothing substantial to say. Avatar wasn't a film, it was a showreel.
      • Chris Groves
        You see, I would argue that Avatar DID do almost exactly what Star Wars did. I personally had never seen a movie that was about a main character inhabiting an alternate, biological alien body. The concept of an exterior section of the nervous system that could be used to connect to and control animals? That wasn't done in every other blockbuster. Mountains that hovered due to a natural occurring mag-lev effect? All of the great designs of the creatures and environments. Cameron did plenty to tell that story with a new language, which is what Lucas did, except he made more of a space fantasy while Cameron made a science fiction film.
        • Snev De la Fontaine
          I too liked those elements you mention and was disappointed to see them go to waste without any exploration. Inhabiting an alternate, biological alien body didn't seem to go beyond empathizing with the aliens, the connection of nervous system had no other consequences than a reminder that you are bound to your planet. This would all have been fine if the film were 80 minutes long and less full of itself. I don't think Avatar needed a different or more original story. I just think they were very easily satisfied with what they had. A science fiction story especially deserves more than that, because it thrives on the consequences of its concepts. Preferably beyond what we can all predict without much thought put into it. I have to disagree with the designs of creatures. A lot of them seemed like first draft concepts to me. Perhaps that's just me though. Decent to good creature design seems to me to be incredibly rare these days. I still think Cameron is a good director and I wanted to enjoy Avatar, but I couldn't find much to like about it.
    • DAVIDPD
      I'd be inclined to agree with your points. With the addition that A NEW HOPE did all those tropes perfectly. That's what made it a classic...and you know...space.
      • Chris Groves
        Oh yeah, I have 0 negative feelings towards A New Hope. I love me some Star Wars, and the original is an absolute classic....there is still a thing or two modern blockbusters could learn from that one.
  • REAL6
    Just bring on 2018 so he can make Battle Angel Atila.
  • David
    Believe me! not started yet,he is working on his new under water 3D NatGeo film.maybe another 12 years.
  • hawk99
    Honestly, I really enjoyed the Avatar story and super excited for Avatar 2.
  • Dr. Henry Jones Sr.
    Avatar 2: Blue Pocanhontas: Die Bluer.
  • cobrazombie
    Avatar's world wasn't as interesting as Jim Cameron wants everyone to believe.
  • Kyle Edgecomb
    Honestly, cant wait to see what james is oing to do to expand the mythology he created

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