(Source: theaustralian.news.com.au) Avatar has been kept under wraps and its revolutionary filming technique has been largely misunderstood. Effects-laden films such as The Abyss, Terminator and Titanic led to the development of a new motion-capture filming process that many have interpreted as being the final inexorable step towards a fully digital film and, consequently, the diminution of the actor.

But Cameron’s producer on Titanic and Avatar, Jon Landau, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“To me, it’s the exact opposite,” Landau says. “Our goal on this movie was not to replace the actor, it was to replace the animator. If you think about it, what a great actor does and what a great animator does are antithetical to one another.

“A great actor withholds information. Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men can sit there and do nothing. No animator would ever allow that, they would put in a twitch. So our objective was to preserve Sam Worthington’s performance and have that be what you see in those characters.”

The filmmakers don’t refer to motion capture, rather they call it “performance capture”. Cameron used a newly developed camera through which he could see not the actor but the virtual actor, and not the green-screen set but the virtual world the actor is supposed to be in. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are using the same technology on their series The Adventures of Tintin.

“There’s no point in having technology being a limiting factor, we want technology to be an enabling factor,” Landau says.

The new technology allows the director to fully realise human performances in digital characters. Worthington’s character in Avatar is Jake, a paraplegic marine who is transformed into a hybrid alien being (the humanoid Navi) on the planet Pandora in a far, far future in which humans must extract a rare mineral from the inhospitable planet. The effect of seeing the Australian’s distinct facial movements in the form of a 3m-tall blue humanoid is unnerving and captivating and extinguishes any thought of Cameron diminishing the place of the actor in film.

“We pitched to people that we were preserving their performances,” Landau says.

“We said, ‘Look, what we’re doing is the 21st-century version of prosthetics. No longer will you have to sit for hours and hours in make-up for you to give the performance of the Grinch or the Godfather. We’re going to do it with CGI (computer-generated imagery) but it’s going to be you, it’s not going to be somebody’s interpretation of you.”‘

Full Article: theaustralian.news.com.au

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