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James Cameron Will Make You Believe
Director talks Avatar's 'syn-thespians'

21 May 2008  |  Written by Olly Richards  |  Source: SearchEngineWatch

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James Cameron's biggest challenge in revealing Avatar to the world won't be that he's striving to establish 3-D as a tool for all kinds of film-making and not just gimmicks, nor that every interview will ask what the hell he's been doing with his time since Titanic. No, the big challenge will be that Cameron needs his audience to believe that the computer-generated characters in his sci-fi epic are absolutely real. Making beings in a computer that remain completely convincing alongside live-action humans is something that has never been fully achieved in movies, although Peter Jackson has come closest and made enormous leaps. But Cameron believes he has the technology.

"Avatar will make people truly experience something," Cameron said at the Microsoft Advance '08 conference. "One more layer of the suspension of disbelief will be removed. All the syn-thespians are photo-realistic. Now that we've achieved it, we discovered CG characters in 3D look more real than in 2D. Your brain is cued – it's a real thing not a picture – and discounting part of [the] image that makes it look fake."

Those are some big words, but if there's a person who can do it, then we're sure it's Cameron. A good portion of his time since Titanic, and apparently much time before that film, has, after all, been dedicated to developing this technology. So he's been making sure to get it right.

Making "syn-thespians" believable to the eye is the last great hurdle for computer effects artists. It's been achieved in a static state, but no film yet made, no matter how much money they've spent, has achieved a level of detail and fluidity and naturalism of movement that means you stop thinking 'amazing effects', as you would with Gollum, King Kong or Jurassic Park's dinosaurs, and just fully believe them as part of the cast. The three films mentioned did incredible things with effects and giving CG characters personalities, but there's still a part of your mind that registers that they're not real. Cameron reckons that's because nobody has tried anything this complicated before.

"Avatar is the single most complex piece of film-making ever made," said Cameron. "We have 1,600 shots for a 2.5 hour movie. It's not with a single CGI character, like King Kong or Gollum. We have hundreds of photo-realistic CG characters."

He goes so far as to say that he's been concentrating so hard on getting the technology right that "I don't know whether [this] will be [a] great film from a narrative and critical standpoint. The experience of Avatar will be an experience unlike any other movies." We'd hope that doesn't mean he's sacrificing story for the benefit of visuals, but given how much and how passionately he's talked about the whole world of Avatar, and not just the technology, we very much doubt that to be the case.

Remember, Cameron is not (from everything we've heard on the film so far) creating CG humans, but aliens, and humanoid creatures that serve as the titular avatars for people venturing to the alien world. So this isn't some needless Final Fantasy type indulgence to imitate life for no good reason. These characters all slipping into the environment seamlessly is a vital part of the film, ostensibly about a human vs alien battle for a planet rich in rare mineral, which is why they have to be absolutely right. Suspension of disbelief is actually more complicated the closer you get to realism. It's easy to see now why it's taken so long to make and why we have the agonising wait until next December to see it. But we could not be more intrigued and excited.

Thus concludes super-long and complicated news story.

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Your Comments

Jurrasic park for me.
I think as far as realism goes and accepting whats on the screen i can't get past the dinosaurs in jurrasic park. they were mind blowing. Obviously i mean realism subjectivly! More

Posted by rob_devitt at 05:27 on 23 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: visionary
Well only time will tell, but lets hope Cameron doesn't wait another 11 years before making another film.     More

Posted by broonie at 13:41 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: visionary
I hope somehow he can overcome some of the blurred visuals that suffereb beowulf. otherwise beowulf was an incredible experience and look forward to Avatar with hiiiiiiiiiiigh expectations More

Posted by kumar at 12:33 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

visionary
i think we need people like cameron..hes a visionary and a boundary pusher..the only thing is now we've been told that there will be cgi people in the film we kinda know what to expect..if it had been kept schtum and people had been told after watching the film he may get a better response to the leaps in cgi.. More

Posted by darktrain at 12:26 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

3d?
has anyone told cameron that 3D peojectors are like rocking horse shit?i don't know of any near where i live More

Posted by danbo1138 at 11:16 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

I'm amazed, utterly amazed that he said this: "I don't know whether e film from a narrative and critical standpoint." these elements are far more important than special effects. Phantom Menace was "an experience". The Matrix sequels were "an experience". More

Posted by spikespiegel at 03:07 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Oh...
Olly, this bit - beings in a computer that remain completely convincing alongside live-action humans is something that has never been fully achieved in movies, although Peter Jackson has come closest and made enormous leaps. But Cameron believes he has the technology." would have thought that the closest and by far the best example of CGi creatures / beings existing perfectly with real humans was Davey Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean? I love Gollum, but the Two Towers, some shots look a More

Posted by pablohoolio at 00:49 on 22 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Oh...
at the very least Avatar will be worth going to the movies for, i think it'll be a proper huge event movie, although it will inevitably become part of the "it got x number of stars? i demand it be give more/less" delete as appropriate. I've become pretty convinced that its the same person that posts that in every review thread, just like that nutter on the imdb board who always posts " does (insert actors/actress name) smoke in this movie?" on the message boards&nb More

Posted by bad hat harry at 23:50 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Oh...
L: The_Hat Hasn't he been saying this for the last few years? Also, is 'director says his film will be great' actually news? He's hardly going to say that the special effects will be dogshit is he? not really saying that his film will be great, he's talking about the effects. I don't think that he'd be saying this unless he knew that this film will be something else. It's obvious that he knows this technology so well that he can make this kind of a bold statement. They are spendi More

Posted by eruptus at 23:47 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

Oh...
Hasn't he been saying this for the last few years? Also, is 'director says his film will be great' actually news? He's hardly going to say that the special effects will be dogshit is he? More

Posted by The_Hat at 20:06 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

Oh...
Hasn't he been saying this for the last few years? Also, is 'director says his film will be great' actually news? He's hardly going to say that the special effects will be dogshit is he? More

Posted by The_Hat at 20:01 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

so they think thier effects will be better than the matrix, terminator 2 and transformers? ppffttt, fat chance! More

Posted by IsabelB at 19:07 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

bothered
who cares???! More

Posted by leroythemasochist at 18:41 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

It's been done
Davy Jones was perfect. You can't beat perfection. More

Posted by Silvertouch at 18:31 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

What about Davy Jones?!
Maybe it's just me, but I thought ILM's work on Davy Jones in the Pirates sequels was pretty darn realistic... More

Posted by steve1138 at 17:02 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

This will be my most anticipated movie of 2009. More

Posted by Mr. Chumba at 16:58 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

I do love a James Cameron movie (i have wiped Titanic from my memory banks), and i'm sure he will acheive what he has set out to acheive. But with all these CGI wotsits and technothingys going on have we overlooked the plot? O.k so it's an Alien based story, with something about them being Avatar's for humans so they are able to gain entry to an Alien world,...or something...please....help me out here, what's it about?? More

Posted by lukeyboy at 16:34 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE:
L: waltham1979 I don't know what it is but I have a completely irrational dislike of James Cameron. Like some of his films - but just cannot stand him !! Dont know why ?? .... very strange !! sp; You and half the people who have made a film with him. More

Posted by Mason Verger at 16:26 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

RE: THE NEXT STEP IN CINEMATIC EVOLUTION?
The mistake Final Fantasy made was through really dull characters. Gollum make not have been perfect (although there are still shots which still stun me - Frodo holding Gollum by the neck and pointing his sword at him for example) but you never doubted, or were bored by the character.   I have faith in Cameron although I am slightly concerned that this is his first real move into modern CGI.    Can we get a trailer for this soon? Even just one of those&nbs More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 16:24 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

THE NEXT STEP IN CINEMATIC EVOLUTION?
Great effects do not a great movie make, however , Jim Cameron is THE action director of the last 20 years, none of that slo-mo crap John Woo employs, and no physics defying acrobatics favored by just about every director from The Wachowskis onwards. Cameron's movies though fantastic in concept, have always remained primarily about story and grounded in a certian solid reality, so much so in fact that people still talk about his pics with hushed awe. I await AVATAR with much anticipation, and if More

Posted by boredbluekoala at 16:18 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

If anyone can do it, Cameron can but surely if you see an alien figure on the screen that's say, 7ft tall with 3 heads, you're automatically going to think 'That's not real, how did they do that?' More

Posted by Timon at 16:14 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

I don't know what it is but I have a completely irrational dislike of James Cameron. Like some of his films - but just cannot stand him !! Dont know why ?? .... very strange !! More

Posted by waltham1979 at 16:13 on 21 May 2008 | Report This Post

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