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The Making of James Cameron's "Avatar"

Star Trek may have had the story of 2009, but with out a shadow of a doubt, Avatar had the technical firepower none of which we've ever seen before in feature film production. You're no doubt on this page because you've seen Avatar, and like us at Tech Talk Radio, we were keen to see how Cameron made the film that will become a cinematic benchmark for years to come.

From concept to production, post production and sound design, this clip gives a really good insight across the whole scope of the making of Avatar. The story goes that each frame of film took 57 hours to make, and there's 24 frames for each second of film. You do the maths. If you haven't seen Avatar yet, see in in 3D at an IMAX Cinema - the way it was meant to be seen.

So sit back, relax and enjoy 23 minutes of how James Cameron made Pandora come to life in Avatar. You'll be amazed.

The Editors behind James Cameron's Avatar, John Refoua and Stephen Rivkin

Avatar Editors John Refoua and Stephen Rivkin“Avatar” was cut on Avid Media Composer systems running software version 2.8.4. The editing team did not want to risk upgrading their software in mid-project despite the fact that Media Composers have been able to playback 3D sequences directly from the timeline ever since version 3.5. So when they wanted to view the 48 terabytes of footage on their Avid Isis storage system holding both left and right eye tracks, they had to run both dailies footage and cut sequences through a QuVIS Acuity 3D playback platform. More

The top two tracks on the Avid timeline were for left and right eye.  We only monitored the left eye when cutting, while making sure the right eye was in sync. 

When the Template cut was done, it went to a whole separate group who would look at it in stereo, analyze the interocular and convergence, and make adjustments.  There was a limited amount you could adjust in the live action because it’s already baked in when you shoot, but in the CG virtual world, all that was a lot more changeable.  Read More

If you think that unwrapping the mysteries of transcoding file-based camera footage provides its challenges, you will find the post-production workflow on Avatar either very scary, or a completely visionary model of things to come.

First assistant editor Jason Gaudio: During production, we had as many as 19 Avids and two Isis systems, one 40 tb and the other 24 tb.  Our main editing room was in Malibu, which could accommodate three editors and up to seven assistants.  During virtual production, we also maintained a “stage” cutting room with Avids for three editors and as many as nine assistants in Playa del Rey.  At our busiest, we had two capture stages and one live-action stage shooting with assistants digitizing and editors cutting in unison.  During live-action production, we maintained editing rooms in both New Zealand and Los Angeles.  Jim was editing in New Zealand, while John and Steve stayed in LA. Read More

  Zoe Saldana during performance capture shoot on the Volume stage, showing quad “split” captured in the Avid from various reference cameras and used in the initial performance edit.
     
  Template version of Zoe Saldana’s selected performance after virtual camera shooting and edit.
     
  Final image after addition of high-resolution visual effects and facial mapping by WETA Digital in New Zealand

Images © 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

An impressive array of Avid audio and video solutions is behind Avatar - including various configurations of Pro Tools, ICON, Unity ISIS and Media Composer systems as well as Sibelius music notation software and Avid M-Audio Axiom keyboard controllers. No wonder it's been labeled ‘a landmark achievement in post production'

Creating an Otherworldly Soundtrack using Sibelius® into Pro Tools HD software
James Cameron wasn't the only one who relied on technology, including Media Composer®, to give Avatar an otherworldly feel.

While no one will deny Hollywood’s tendency to overuse clichés like “years in the making” to hype their wares, director James Cameron’s Avatar is one project that truly fits the description. Cameron reportedly began working on the movie’s script as early as 1994, but waited until 2005 for technological advances to catch up to make the computer graphics-heavy movie. Technology is also what fueled composer James Horner’s compelling soundtrack, which breaks new ground, both sonically and technically. more...

Avatar Bluray release date Australia - April 22, 2010 (Bluray and DVD)
(source: bluray.com)

James Cameron caused quite a stir when he said to the Wall Street Journal that Avatar would come out on Blu-ray in April in a "barebones" release and then in November in a 3D edition. On Thursday night, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment notified the WSJ: "3D is in the conceptual stage and Avatar will not be out on 3D Blu-ray in November."

Of course, when putting in context the claim that "3D is in the conceptual stage," the following known facts are worth considering:

  1. In December, the Blu-ray Disc Association (of which Fox is a board member) announced that it had finalized the Blu-ray 3D specification.
  2. The 3D part of the HDMI 1.4 specification has already been adopted and made public.
  3. At CES, 3D Blu-ray players were announced by Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. Most of them have also announced 3D displays.
  4. This year, the PS3 is reportedly getting a firmware upgrade enabling 3D Blu-ray playback.
  5. Blu-ray 3D authoring is already operational at Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory
  6. Disney, Dreamworks and Sony have already announced they will release 3D titles during 2010.

Avatar Poularity - You can see how successful Avatar was in other countries here.

 
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