Monday, October 5, 2009

Workflow: Avatar, New Cameron Movie

Jon Landau shows off Avatar's Adobe Heritage

Jon Landau, producer from Lightstorm Entertainment, arrived today at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, to talk about the December 18, 2009, release of the 3D movie Avatar.

"We look at 3D as a window in to a world, not a way to make things pop off the screen," said Landau, adding the movie is not about Earth, even though it starts there before movie to the (pun-intended) planet Pandora. "We've wanted to do Avatar from way back at the time we did Titanic but the technology wasn't ready to be the enabler."

Landau said the avatars of the movie are dormant hybrid bodies that contain parts of both human and Pandoran bio-mass, sitting in stasis until a medical procedure moves consciousness in to the avatar from a human. The key hero (or anti-hero, depending on your political view of corporations and mechanized armies) is a wounded Army veteran whose twin brother is set to go to to Pandora to be linked with an avatar, before meeting an untimely death.

While the concept is far-fetched, the never-before-seen clips shown at Adobe MAX bring both the movie concept - and the tools used - in to a whole new light.

Landau talked about how Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects were key to various steps in the workflow.

"This is really about pulling Adobe's tools in to our workflow," said Landau. "There are certain software tools that let you do your job, there are other tools that allow you to do your job better."

Landau provided several examples, including one about the use of After Effects for compositing on the set and off the set.

"We used After Effects, with real-time composting, immediately on the set to show Jim," Landau said, referring to James Cameron, who directed both Titanic and the new Avatar. "WETA would interpret a wide-angle video shot of the actor's faces on frame-by-frame basis, to create Kabuki masks that pasted a 'mask' of the video image on to the CG character."

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