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Friday, March 23, 2007

AVATAR UPDATE: Cameron's Vision and a Video Game?!


BusinessWeek's (BW) cover story for the April 2nd edition is all about 'Motion Capture' or 'Performance Capture' in James Cameron's world. He says that actors convey emotion, not motion thus the terminology.

Also revealed about Avatar during BW's interview is that "The futuristic movie about an ex-Marine will be released in 2009 simultaneously with a massive, multiplayer, video game based on the film." Cameron is really starting to put into action his plans of the last 10 years. Finally the technology that he has been seeking to make his dream projects are becoming reality--or virtually reality. :-)

Cameron's longer term vision takes into account the power of the MMORG and merges it with film. No more camera angle switching - you are IN THE MOVIE, invisible and omnipotent to the scene; you can elect to view the scenes from any angle and you are swept to that position seamlessly. He sees his virtu
al worlds that are created for film, being re-purposed for gaming. Cameron would like to work with individuals to create lavish fantasy environments for gaming and films, I suppose like hard core gamers use level editors to build new maps to share with their community. Awesome stuff here. If Cameron can achieve half of what he is talking about, the entertainment industry would be spun upside down. He sees this technology taking place certainly years down the road, but not decades. Imagine watching a 3D immersive film and seeing the car or building you created in the background! Some video games just are not successful until they open up level editing to the public; they need that domino effect and quite frankly, the public generated maps and levels are typically better than the originally engineered ones! Now bring scenario that to digital 3D film and you are starting to get it.

But for today's world, Cameron is happy with advances like doing away with dozens of sensors on actors faces and replacing it with a form-fitting device that traces their movements via mini-cameras and software. Actors can don this equipment minutes before a take rather than endure hours in the makeup chair. A lot of money is going to be saved here. In fact, the industry will be able to use a single actor to portray a life, from child to senior without makeup.

Probably the most important contribution for his vision thus far is the 3D digital filming using 'Performance Capture'. Cameron can actually see what the actor is doing as it will roughly appear in the final film ("
a reality level equal to an '80s video game") while the end product will be 100% photo-realistic. He will be able to make minute changes not possible before because you would have to wait months to see the visual effects after all the shooting has been done. You don't want to have to call back the cast for re-shoots; and in many cases it is simply impossible with busy actors. Pragmatically and operationally Cameron has come a long way. No wonder the studio jumped at this opportunity after seeing the level of detail Cameron had already put into the planning. The excitement sure is building for Avatar and it will soon be reality.

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