James Cameron’s Virtual World Film Greenlit

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 film’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. It’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.

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  1. Both Titanic and Terminator rank among my fave films — I long have wondered what a hybrid of the two would be like; I used to play “My Heart Will Go On” on piano for hours — such a beautiful melody! — and what irks me about Terminator is how major aspects of the story were basically copies from Harlan Ellison’s work. At least that’s long under the water.

    Curious how the broad-reaching, generic name of “Avatar” has been chosen for this: relatedly, it makes me think of Stephen Spielberg’s AI. So far, it sounds like comparisons to Tron will be drawn, altho in all fairness, I’ve never seen that movie in its entirety, just enjoyed the soundtrack.

    The movie I keep wanting to see made is Neuromancer, as directed by Chris Cunningham and score by Richard D. James. Seems unlikely that’ll happen, and it’s a shame the Halo film was dropped, but I hope Neil Blomkamp gets a big-screen directing opportunity yet. I’m convinced he could make the life-cycle of avatars feel as natural as how we watch our own children walk.

    • Aki Shichiroji
    • January 15th, 2007

    I’ve long been an admirer of Cameron’s work (my first introduction to his work being The Abyss), and hearing about this latest project gives me great hope for his Battle Angel project, slated for 2009.

    I have heard that both of these projects will be released specifically for 3D IMAX… any word as to whether this is true?

    • Lisa
    • March 2nd, 2007

    SO WHERE ARE THE TOMBS OF JESUS’ 4 BROTHERS?

    Ok, if these ossuaries really contain the bones of Jesus and his family, then where are the tombs of Jesus’ four brothers (yes! Jesus had siblings!) James, Simon, Joseph, and Judas??? See Matthew 13:55. There has been no mention of these tombs alongside the rest of their family. Very common names for these times, also.

    Lisa

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