Why Is Avatar: The Way of Water So Expensive?

Credit: via The Verge

Avatar: The Way of Water, the impending James Cameron movie that is also the follow-up to the all-time highest-grossing movie, has a new trailer out. While delving a little bit more deeply into the family-first story at the centre of the movie, it is just as visually stunning as you’d anticipate. It’s fun, and it’s here!

Not an animation

Whatever your opinion of the plot of Avatar may be (if you even remember the plot), there’s no questioning the technical feats Cameron and his team undertook to make these films a reality. And in a fantastic new GQ piece, Cameron details the various technologies—AI, algorithms, brand-new cameras, etc.—that went into this one:

The process for how Cameron builds the Avatar films is complex; it involves creating a data-rich but visually undistinguished package that Cameron calls a template—on which he captures the lighting, performances, and camera moves he wants—which then gets handed over to Wētā to apply algorithms and layers of animation to bring the template to life. “It’s not animation in a Pixar sense where they’re just making stuff up,” Cameron told me. “The actors already defined what they did, but it has to be translated from the captured data to the 3D-CG character. And there are all sorts of AI steps in there.”

Filmmaking and technology

Additionally, using Sony’s Venice cameras, Cameron and his team developed a brand-new camera system that essentially merely joins several top-of-the-line cameras to produce a stereoscopic 3D system. Several years ago, Cameron singled out the cameras’ outstanding dynamic range for praise. Cameron reportedly discovered how to simultaneously film and perform motion capture both above and below the sea.

For the first Avatar film, for example, Cameron constructed a camera setup that allowed him to observe characters in their CG backgrounds in real time as he was filming. Cameron is renowned for essentially combining the roles of inventor and director on most of his sets. Additionally, he is renowned for his passionate views on filmmaking and technology. He was a pioneer in 3D, for example, but has been critical of how others have applied the technology.


In the GQ profile, Cameron claims that all of this new technology has required a tremendous amount of effort — there’s a hilarious moment when Cameron views version 415 of a single effect shot — and is a significant factor in why the film is so expensive and so delayed. (And this is only the second of the five Avatar films he’s producing; according to Cameron, the fourth will be the most outrageous.) The most realistic scene in this entertaining tale occurs when Cameron is trying to adjust the audio in a screening room while standing in front of a mixing board:

“I’m always telling them there are too many damn knobs,” he said. “I mean you could run a starship with fewer knobs than this.”

This just goes to show: nobody knows that all those buttons do — even if you’re the most successful director of all time.


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Source: The Verge


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