How to make a 3D-movie? Learn by, how the Avatar was made

Newfangled "3D" was a kind of "driving force" with which the studio with theater owners expect to raise the interest of spectators to watch movies on the big screen, breathe in the film "second life". Every day the news announced a growing number of paintings, which will shoot in three-dimensional format. In the matter go and classical paintings with cartoons, which add the "depth" to re-release them in theaters.
Flying into people's objects, pursuits and flights - the majority of three-dimensional film offers the viewer entertainment, comparable to the attraction in any theme park. However, the movie - is not just a pretty picture. Make 3D work for film - immerse the viewer into the newly created director and crew world, and then force him to believe what is happening on the screen, forget about staying in the cinema seat - until recently, such was not possible practically to any eminent and not-so director. "Avatar," James Cameron has managed to change the way people on the movie, has breathed "a breath of fresh air in life is so popular, but the order of the stale art. Not for nothing on their effect on foreign film critics have likened this picture to the appearance of a color film.
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Birth of Dreams

In 2009, the history of "Avatar" is 15 years old. That's how much time has passed since Cameron has finished writing the original 114-page script for his next movie, an idea that, in the words of James, was hovering in his mind since his youth. As a basis for future film director took a few sources: the real story of Indian princess Pocahontas (and the same cartoon studio of Disney), a classic cycle of books about John Carter of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as the movie "Dances with Wolves Kevin Costner. As conceived by Cameron assumed that "Avatar", instead of real actors, the role will play generated by three-dimensional graphics characters. Work on the creation of visual effects for the 100 millionth picture he had planned to give his own studio Digital Domain, which was supposed to get the necessary experience to do during the work on " Titanic . " However, the director had to postpone the realization of his dream for an indefinite time, as the picture of a wrecked ship, though, and earned an Oscar for best visual effects, imperfection of the technology demonstrated at the time that simply would not allow Maitre implement our plans on the screen.
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The first official picture, which appeared in the network a year ago - on Dec. 23.
Initially, Cameron was not going to give yourself time to relax: after finishing work on "Titanic", he planned to move to the big screen comic book "Spider-Man." The scenario for the future film was written by the director during his work on " Terminator 2 "for the studio Carolco. However, after the bankruptcy of the company the rights to all scripts at first moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and then to Columbia Pictures. Sony hired to write the script, "Spider-Man," another writer, who originally picked up the script Cameron as a basis (though much later reworking of it). The director's chair, the creator of "Titanic", unfortunately, has not got.
After the failure of "Spider-Man" Cameron took the science fiction film about the first manned mission to Mars. To this end, he even traveled to Russia where he visited the rocket-space corporation "Energy". In close collaboration with scientists from different countries had developed quite a real plan for manned space flight, which, with the best of circumstances, could be brought to life for 15 years. Stage of training pattern came to an end, but before the shoot is not reached: the failure of the cash movie "Mission to Mars" and "Red Planet", similar to the new work directed by thematically, forced him to curtail the work.
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The first frame of the "Avatar" - August 2009.
Deciding to take a break from "full meter," Cameron took the documentary film. From his pen came three films: "James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck," "Ghosts of the Abyss" (in which Cameron returned to the theme of Titanic) and "Aliens of the Deep." The last two tapes were filmed to show in theaters IMAX 3D, so that already at that time the director began to establish contacts with the leadership of IMAX Corporation.
In 2004, Cameron decided to return from the "long holiday", making sure that the visual effects industry thoroughly, "Vered stepped" over the past decade, and that he will again be able to use its services for voproscheniya its grandiose ideas.
Initially, the following picture of James was to be a film adaptation of Japanese manga "Battle Angel Aelita, but after detailed analysis of the director postponed the film until later, holding his dream -" Avatar. " According to Cameron, the experience gained during work on this film, will be invaluable when filming "Battle Angel" to which he still plans to return.

The dream becomes reality

An analysis of existing technical solutions, the director hired a company-developer of systems "motion capture" (motion capture, mocap) Giant Studios. In addition, Cameron invited me to a specialist team of visual effects and mocap Rob Legato, with whom he has worked on "Titanic." In addition to developing hardware and software for creating visual effects, film director, organized design department, which faced a hitherto unprecedented challenge - to create entirely new world in the form of the planet Pandora, which is developing the action "Avatar."
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Sketchy pictures of the world of Pandora.
In order to demonstrate the potential of "Avatar" management studio and get the necessary budget, Cameron turned to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). It is manufactured for test director 4.5-minute video, 37 seconds, which is a computer animation in final form.
With this roller Cameron and producer of "Avatar" Jon Landau asked the heads of 20 Century Fox Tom Rothmann and Jim Dzhianopulosu. According to the director, he could choose any other studio, however, mindful of the good relationship with Fox during the work on "Titanic", has decided to stay exactly on it.
After approval of the project studio Cameron had to choose the provider of visual effects for film. Given the fact that 60% of "Avatar" was planned to create with the help of computer technology, the choice was difficult and responsible step. Among the contenders were the favorites of the ILM and WETA Peter Jackson, famous for his work on the trilogy "Lord of the Rings" and the movie " King Kong ". The final choice fell on WETA for several reasons. Firstly, the Government of New Zealand, where the studio, returning 15% of expenses spent on its services. Second, Cameron could take the help of not only WETA Digital, dealing with computer effects, but also the WETA Workshop, which was later produced for films of different props, makeup, models and mock-ups of creatures and machinery. Thirdly, James has access to their own film set studio, where she was going to shoot scenes with live actors. And finally, the last on the list but not the last one leading reason was that it was created by WETA Gollum and Kong director had begun to believe that the hour for "Avatar" has arrived.
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Sketches of human buildings and equipment.
In mid-2005 in the media leaked the rumor that Cameron began work on the painting, codenamed "Project 880". A year later, the director has officially announced that it postpones the project "Battle Angel Aelita" to suit the new film. Later, the veil of secrecy was ajar, and it became known that the new feature film by Jim will be just "Avatar."

Creation of a new world

Since the effect of "Avatar" is the fictional planet of Pandora, Cameron and his team had "from scratch" to come up with not only the celestial body, but give it a unique landscape, flora and fauna. In the process he helped design development production designer Rick Carter, who previously worked with Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, with his assistant Rob Stromberg.
Four artists, among whom were well-known masters - the designer of creatures and characters, Wayne Barlowe, and the sculptor George Schell - a few months to prepare hundreds of sketches of main characters, plants, creatures, Pandora, human structures, equipment and flying rocks. According to visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri WETA Digital, the appearance of the planet and its inhabitants was inspired by the underwater expedition Cameron: "The Pandora bioluminescence everywhere, from living beings blue leather, diverse body shapes and colors natelnyh patterns. We all know the rule: on land large animals are not bright and flashy coloring. But it is not under water, resulting in Jim said that these creatures can live on this planet. Therefore, we used a similar color palette, and tried to make it as realistic. " As a result, the direct participation of Cameron, the Pandora was created an entire ecosystem, which, according to Carter, was "not only beautiful appearance but also possessed an" inner nervous system. "
Sketches of plants and animals.
All the splendor of the created world on paper, but still had to reconstruct in three dimensions. "And it certainly had an impact on our process - says Letteri. - We had to completely rework the tools the studio, as well as the production process."
Previously, in order to make each drawn on the computer to move the plant, the animator to manually frame animation. However, for the "Avatar" such an approach was unacceptable, since only one plant had approximately 500 pieces. As a result, WETA benefited adapted for this purpose the program Massive, created by the developers of the studio for another "Lord of the Rings", and is designed for generating and managing a large number of characters in the scene.
To highlight the three-dimensional scenes WETA has developed a special software based on "spherical functions" (spherical harmonics), which are widely used in graphics engines for games. "We calculate the spherical functions for each individual plant, all the angles of illumination, and store the geometry - explains visual effects supervisor Eric Saidon. - This allows us to add to the scene just a source of light, and at the same time to receive adequate rates of obstruction (occlusion) from each element of the vegetation. The plant, in turn, create their own barriers to the rays of light, using his own harmonic estimates which item (s), it blocks in the neighborhood, and stores the result. As a result, we can cover all of the jungle is only one source light. Difficult as lighting could create with a fairly simple setup. Without this program, we would simply have not finished the film. "
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According to Cameron, WETA Digital in the most productive "rendering farm" (render farm) in the world. She worked almost nonstop for two years, assessing each frame of more than 1800 stereoscopic plans with special effects. However, even with the use of human (up to 900 people at the final stage of work) and technical resources, WETA could not meet the short time allocated to it to create computer graphics. In the end, the filmmakers had to be connected to the work of additional "reserves", which became ILM, Framestore and several other smaller studios.
Much of the work of ILM is to create scenes involving aircraft earthlings, as well as the final battle. However, the two major visual effects studios several times had to work on the same episode, sometimes creating different visual effects for the same frame. For example, in a scene of destruction of a giant tree Na'vi called Eywa large part of plans made by experts WETA, whereas the ILM was responsible for all the frames in which the camera was directed at the helicopters.
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One of the innovations introduced by the studio of George Lucas in "Avatar," are completely computer-generated explosions. According to John Knoll, Visual Effects Supervisor ILM, earlier in order to remove the massive explosion, his first shot with live pyrotechnics, and then finished on the computer. However, in the case of Cameron's classic film technique is not suitable, because it does not always satisfy the director's original idea. "In the past we had to create entirely generated by the three-dimensional graphs of the explosions, but the scale and level of realism," Avatar "demanded much more," 
Fortunately, ILM in an asset already had considerable experience on the part of the simulation of liquids, gained while working on the film "Poseidon" and the trilogy "Pirates of the Caribbean". In addition, Knoll knew that the shape and dynamics of motion of explosion is very similar to the appearance and behavior of water. As a result, based on its own engine simulation of liquids and refined it, ILM specialists managed to create a whole range of explosion: from the simple gas emissions of firearms and the fiery exhaust from a missile launch, to massive and highly sophisticated fire damage.
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Breakthrough in the third dimension

For the first time Cameron became acquainted with the technology to create "three-dimensional" movies in 1996 while filming a short film "Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time," intended to demonstrate the amusement park studio Universal.
In 2003, one of his interview on the eve of the release of "Ghosts of the Abyss," Cameron said: "From now on I'm going to shoot their films only in 3D". According to the director kept, and six years later, "Avatar" shows his statement.
For shooting tape system was used Fusion 3D, which was developed by Cameron in collaboration with his friend Vince Pace during his work on "Ghosts of the Abyss." It is a pair of modified digital cameras, Sony HDCF950 removable image sensor and optics, which allows to shoot stereoscopic image. Fusion 3D has been tested by the use not only in documentaries Cameron, but also in the paintings of "Final Destination 4" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth" concerts, Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers, as well as during the broadcast of the final matches of the National Basketball League USA ( NBA) in 2007.
At the outbreak of shooting "Avatar" continuous improvement Fusion has borne fruit. Thus, the system has acquired a special algorithm that facilitates the operator to work with three-dimensional image. "He recognizes the focal distance and automatically adjusts the Fusion, providing the most optimal position for shooting," - says Pace. Thus, he believes, the operator can concentrate on the creative details, rather than technical.
Developers Fusion also improved their development in order to facilitate the work with her director of photography, Mauro Fiore movie. "We do not intend to use six cameras. Instead, we wanted to work with three, which could be combined, and get the same six different types to achieve the goal - Pace explains. - We have prepared several sets of optics, as well as options to configure , to allow easy use camera with Fusion not only in a figurative form, but also, say, a truck or a crane. "
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James Cameron during the filming process.
The second key technology used for the filming of "Avatar", the system became Simulcam, designed by Cameron and Legato. It puts the virtual character based on data obtained as a result of capture of action "(performance capture), the real scene, filmed in the pavilion. Simulcam also allows us to estimate, will look like computer-generated backgrounds, combined with real footage. This software will allow Cameron to watch the screen while the actors, three-dimensional characters, real sets and painted backgrounds, thereby greatly facilitating and accelerating the process of filming.
According to Pace, the first impressions of what they had seen the result of Simulcam were simply unforgettable. It happened during the filming of the scene of the first meeting of the main characters tapes, a former paratrooper and now a scholar Jack Sally (played by Sam Warrington) and Aboriginal Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), as Jack sprawled on the ground, looked at the girl from the bottom up. "I saw Neytiri as if looking at the native through the eyes of Jack - he recalls. - I saw his knee in the frame, and, deciding that it is - mine, tried to delete it. But it was not my knee, and Jake. From the first same moment you become the "eyes" part of interaction with the surrounding environment. This feeling is completely fooled me, because I truly believed that I was in the body of the hero of Sam. "

The transformation of the actors in the blue "cats"

Even at the time of writing the original script Cameron imagined the look reasonable humanlike creatures that inhabit Pandora: skin is blue and the tail, tall, graceful manners reminiscent of cats. A decade later, George Schell was able to embody the idea of ​​Cameron in his 38-cm Neytiri sculpture in which the director fell in love at first sight.
When the appearance of the main characters, and characters of the second plan was approved, the cause took designers WETA Digital. "We originally set out to do Na'vi as realistic as possible. To achieve this, our departments have worked like mad, - the head of the animation studio of Andy Jones. - We used a lot of photos and a scan of actors to move details of real people for their digital counterparts - as is the case with humans, as well as in the case of Na'vi. In addition, we have spent much time on the texturing of models as well as the creation of specific shaders to display in frames after rendering all possible nuances. "
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Especially for the "motion capture" those actors WETA Digital has developed a device worn on the head, which was a helmet with attached miniature camera. Aimed at the actor's face it in real time "captures" all the human emotions by controlling the green markers, located on the face. Engaged in data processing software, an earlier version of which was used for work on "King Kong". This program automatically determines which muscles are responsible for this or that expression on the human face, as well as expected degree of tension or, conversely, compression. Then, depending on whether the actor playing the role of humans or Na'vi, the software automatically customized muscle movement under nonstandard anatomy of the indigenous inhabitants of Pandora and animate three-dimensional map of a person of character.
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In addition, the studio has also created a new engine for the simulation of the musculoskeletal system. Earlier WETA used relatively simple program, which outlines counted the effect of deformation of muscles on the skin. The new engine for the "Avatar" has allowed to design a much more accurate model, consisting of full skeleton and muscular system. "The muscles have impacted on one another, maintained their volume and were anatomically correct, - says the supervisor of visual effects studio, Dan Lemmon. - Our model is endowed with several layers of muscle tissue, tendons, and operates as a real muscular system. Thanks to her, you can get much more realistic strain on the bodies of digital creatures, such as apparent slip of the muscles under the skin, as well as the dynamics of the flesh in motion. "
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If the planet Pandora, and its inhabitants were completely recreated on a computer, in the case with the technique of earthlings situation was somewhat different: most of them were also represented in digital form, but some had to make as a full-size mock-ups. For manufacturing equipment layouts earthlings responsible team of the late Wall Winston, who worked with WETA Workshop. Specifically for the filming was built full-sized version of a robotic exoskeleton MK-6 AMP, which was used during the process of stage to shoot the actors in the cockpit, as well as "capture the action." In addition, a full-size manufactured and helicopter Samson, piloted by Trudi Chacón - heroine actress Michelle Rodriguez.
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Especially for film-making process has developed a system called Volume, which is a rectangular framed farm with dimensions 21h12 meters placed on it 120 camera manufactured by Basler Vision. These cameras produce "capture of" all the bodies were on the scene at once actors from all angles and sides. The data obtained in real time superimposed on the three-dimensional characters who acted against a background of low poly computing landscape. Then, using Simulcam, it was possible to walk across the stage with a display Volume and select the most appropriate angle for setting the virtual camera, light sources and other things. In addition, using a portable camera and display as a kind of "augmented reality" (augmented reality), Cameron could walk the hall and see a virtual three-dimensional scene on the screen. After the resolution of emerging issues, all data sent to WETA Digital for further work footage.
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The process of creating a scene for "Avatar: from rehearsal to the final result.
A total of 162 minutes duration movie 117 minutes were created entirely using computer graphics, and an additional 20 minutes is a symbiosis of live filming and visual effects.

Ovchinka worth the candle?

Campaign film can hardly be called mediocre. Since the start of the picture and Cameron Studio 20 Century Fox kept the details of the "Avatar" in the strictest secrecy. All that was able to "scrape" the media and the public network - the original script, as well as a pair of conceptual drawings. For a long time had to collect information literally bit by bit.
The situation began to change dramatically in 2009 with the emergence of a growing number of movie frames, as well as with publishing on August 20 the first teaser trailer painting. After this number of photos and video on the theme, gradually becoming available to the general public began to rapidly increase. In June, the exhibition CinemaExpo International, held in Amsterdam, Cameron personally demonstrated 24 minutes of finished footage from the "Avatar" A Thousand favorite filmmakers, critics, businessmen and others involved in the film industry people. Later, in a number of cinemas around the world, equipped with a technology for 3D-video demonstrations were held free screenings of the same material, which could get anyone.
In total advertising campaign movie was spent about $ 150 million. However, the production budget of the film - is even higher.
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Collectible Statue exoskeleton MK-6 AMP production Sideshow Collectibles.
So technologically complex film as "Avatar" could not be removed "for a penny." Originally approved by the Fox studio in the amount of $ 195 million in work on the film increased to 237 million dollars on the internet is continuously circulated rumors about exceeding the 300 millionth mark, not giving rest to the public. Only a few days after release of the film in wide release Fox representatives reiterated their unveiling of the official data, according to which the creation of "Avatar" was, in turn, spent $ 310 million (or 280 million after deducting production taxes). In any case, at the moment Cameron's new film once again led the pedestal of the most expensive film in the history of modern cinema (at the time such title were "Terminator 2" and "Titanic").
Coming to the U.S. rental Dec. 18, "Avatar" has collected over the first weekend of $ 77 million. Another $ 159 million brought to the collection of the film rest of the world. Excitement about a new picture of Cameron's incredible reviews from critics and ordinary viewers - enthusiastic, drop charges in cinemas - are minimal. If we consider the upcoming Christmas weekend, the film should continue to "pull the money with a shovel."
Only came out in wide release, "Avatar" has already begun to win various prizes and awards: in addition to receiving a number of "small premium" of several American Film Critics Association, a film nominated for Golden Globe Awards "presents Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Hollywood Foreign Press Association, HFPA), in the categories: Best Picture (Drama), Best Director, Best Soundtrack and Best Song Written for Film ". In addition, the film made the list, from which will be subsequently selected the nominees for an Oscar in the category "Best Special Effects." Cameron himself received December 17 own star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. More is coming ...
Since the premiere of "Avatar" do not cease talking about the second part. Cameron originally planned to remove the trilogy, but the other movies, he said, will be born only in the case of box-office success of the first, as he and representatives of the Fox studios firmly in almost every interview. Sam Warrington have signed on to shoot in the sequels, so that the case "for small."
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Just before the publication of material it became known that in his interview for the open channel MTV Cameron announced the continuation of the plot which will be developed immediately after the first part. Another very nice thing: according to the director, to wait for the sequel next 15 years is not required.

Reserve for future

Cameron's plans for a truly "Napoleon": it produces a picture "Sanctum" and a remake of the sci-fi movie 1966 release of "Fantastic Voyage." Parallel to this, the director for several years continues to cooperate actively with the U.S. space agency NASA in a project to develop video MastCam for the new rover's Mars Science Laboratory, which is to be launched in 2011. And, of course, no one has canceled filming sequels "Avatar" and the resumption of work on "Battle Angel Aelita." Hopefully, the above mentioned plans will not allow the director to go back to the "long vacation", and James Cameron has not yet once again demonstrate to mankind that rightfully bears the title of one of the best directors of our time.


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