Filmmaker James Cameron of Titanic fame (and, probably more importantly to readers of this blog, The Terminator), has just gotten the go-ahead on his next film. What interests 3pointD about this is the fact that it will be filmed in a moviemaking version of a virtual world, and new details of the process have emerged in a story in today’s New York Times. Cameron is using the latest “performance-capture” technology to record the movements of actors’ bodies, as well as their facial expressions. But such recordings are usually made against a blank background that’s later filled with a digitally produced environment. In the case of Avatar, Cameron’s next film, “The most important innovation thus far has been a camera, designed by Mr. Cameron and his computer experts, that allows the director to observe the performances of the actors-as-aliens, in the filmâ€™s virtual environment, as it happens,” the Times writes. The key phrase here is “as it happens.” Cameron and his team have essentially created a virtual world that they view live as the performances are recorded. What they see on their screen is the motion-capture already composited into the digital environment, rather than having to wait until later to see the combination of the two streams of content. In addition, Cameron can pan and zoom around on the fly: “If I want to fly through space, or change my perspective, I can. I can turn the whole scene into a living miniature and go through it on a 50 to 1 scale. Itâ€™s pretty exciting,” he says. That’s exciting technology indeed. Though it bears little direct impact on current multiuser virtual worlds, it’s the kind of technology that will gradually filter down to broader levels, and the kind of filmmaking that could help promote Internet-based 3D spaces. Will the movie be any good? Who knows. The filmmaking techniques, however (which almost resemble the ultimate in machinima), are fascinating. And don’t forget that Cameron sits on the Multiverse advisory board.