Sunday, January 24, 2010


I know it's been like... what, 3 or 4 months? It's been pretty hectic nonstop. I still have two more schools to finish applying to, yearbook drawings to finish up on, two AP art concentration pieces due this upcoming week, and on top of that I also have school work to catch up on... Procrastination took its toll yesterday when I put off my work writing a story. It's not really a story, more like a script. That took, what, 5 hours of my day haha. But I feel good doing what I want to do. I feel significantly less stressed than before, and with all these "deadlines", I kinda feel like a legit working artist :D Even though I'm not getting paid -_- Also I had my first peanut butter bannana and honey sandwich! That was goood.

Despite all this I just HAVE to write about Avatar, absolutely have to, this post is already way past its due.

So there's been criticism about poor script writing and James Cameron's treatment towards his fans...but let's just side step that and look at the bigger picture here. Avatar has revolutionized the concept of filmmaking. I think that's already a pretty good plus ...

The artists are freakin incredible, just OMFG amazing. Major props to Weta Digital and Industrial Light & Magic, I wrote an article about Weta earlier so go check that out.

I'm dissapointed, however, that the Art of Avatar is barely the thickness of my agenda book. Perhaps the studios do not want to leak out any raw concept art because they aren't finished with all three films (word has it that they're making an Avatar trilogy)? Beats me... but there's several "behind the scenes" articles up on CG Talk now.

Behind the Scenes: Fun Facts to Chew On

Here's one juicy article that goes in depth with the technical problems the team had to overcome: When making Avatar, the production team had to come up with these new cool features:

  1. Virtual Camera-Also known as the Steering Wheel, allows James Cameron to look through the view finder and "steer" his way around the Pandora environment built by the Virtual Arts Department (VAD) for a certain scene. This way the director could point out changes that need to be made, such as relocation of a tree or floating mountain to get a better camera angle.

  2. Motion/Performance capture (mo-cap) is upgraded to a whole new level so that there is finer detail of facial expressions and other beauties.

  3. Skull caps- Funky helmets the actors had to wear when they acted out a scene. These skull caps mo-cap the actors and process the data into the Virtual Camera. This way Cameron can look over the scene in a more complete version. He will see the actor's "blue suit" alien counterparts moving in real time in their digital surroundings. Doing this allows Cameron to use his directing abilities without delay and make any corrections in a quicker time.

  4. Head of Massive Department Jon Allitt wrote a system to make plant growth in the Pandora jungle look realistic. Massive (Multiple Agent Simulation System in Virtual Environment) is a software used to simulate crowd-related movement in film. In the past Massive was used to move people (overly used in battle scenes, first in Lord of the Rings, then in many other films that followed suit). Allitt thought, if you could manipulate characters to react to their environment, why not instill the same concept in plants? Lo and behold, Allitt's idea worked very well.

  5. I'm not quite sure this is true, but I was told that there is a special camera that was designed by Sony so that the lenses moved exactly the way our eyeballs do. That's why it seems a bit dizzy in certain action packed scenes. I don't know the name of this camera, but it sure sounds cool.

Is Avatar an Animated feature?

This has stirred quite a buzz on forums the minute after this movie was released. Click on this for a thorough read . One guy reasoned that if a movie like Alvin and the Chipmunks was eligible for an Oscar in best animated feauture, then Avatar was definitely qualified as a worthy contestant. James Cameron and all the other actors, however, have repeatedly emphasized that Avatar is NOT an animated feature. A new question arises, is there a clear boundary between visual effects and animation? Though Avatar did require tons of animators and animation procedures, almost all of it revolved around the actor's live performance. This is different than what animation studios like Pixar and Dreamworks do, in which the animators make up the performances themselves.

Then again, performance capture is pretty much a modern day rotoscope technique, which was often used in an animated film. This practice has dated wayy back during productions like Disney's Cinderella and Max Fleischer's Betty Boop cartoons.

Perhaps the only separation between what is animated and what is VFX (visual effects) is the director's own intentions. If the director wants to make everything extremely photorealistic, then he'd probably say that the film is not considered an animated feature. If the director wants to make everything look unrealistic and cartoony, then it is an animated feature. I this has to attribute to our way of perceiving animation. We forget that it's a basic science and often associate it with Tom and Jerry Cartoons. Is this a cultural mindset?!

No matter, this is really an open ended debate...Besides, Avatar was not submitted into the animated category to begin with, so it won't be considered this round. One thing's for sure, whether Cameron calls Avatar and animated feature or not, animation was definitely used to make the movie as we see it. Competition in the film industry has now come to a whole new level, it's exciting but a little scary how our perceptions of the future are slowly becoming a reality.

v In the film the Polar Express, Tom Hanks was mo-capped and seen as an animated train conductor in the final film.

In Lord of the Rings, Andy Serkis was mo-capped and in this way played the role of Gollum, the ex-hobbit obsessed over the Ring.


  1. Very thought provoking. Interesting and enjoyable. Five stars :D
    Oh, and good luck with remaining apps and college decisions!

  2. Thanks Arya! :) Glad you liked this post!

  3. wow so lovely! :] i love the cutely named mo-cap. and yes, avatar was really just luscious.

    "fun facts to chew on" allusion!!! (haha jk)

    I love how your blog is always professional. It's packed with information, like Avatar and animation. (rhyme not intended). It's so mature and well-worded, as well. I feel like I'm reading an article on art when I read your blog posts.

  4. Thanks Linda, that means a lot :) haha puns...For some reason, puns remind me of raisin bagels. Ok. I need sleep.