‘Avatar’: the before and after in the blockbuster after the bombing of James Cameron and why not all its innovations have been for the better

The success of ‘Avatar: The Water Sense‘ continues to rise like foam and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop for a few weeks. The perspective of failure it’s there, as the box office milestone of the first part continues to hover like a ghost to put pressure on James Cameron. What we can verify by looking at it is that its technical advances do not attract as much attention as what the king of the world achieved in 2009.

And this does not mean there are not. The CGI is a marvel, the underwater scenes are something that has never been experienced like this on a movie screen, and generally manages to make the narrative seem real, when almost everything we see is virtual. But it is still a refinement of what we have seen, and no matter how much technical prodigy, it no longer surprises us at all. We didn’t leave with our mouths open but rather saying “everything technical is very good”. And for that the culprit is… ‘Avatar’.

What ‘Avatar’ Got

Cameron has always been a visionary and has achieved great technological innovations through his films. In ‘Avatars’, used a combination of 3D and CGI, mixing real images with defined characters with motion capture. This technique was not new, we saw it in ‘The Lord of the rings’but what the director achieved was to manage to do it in real time, so that he could direct the actors while seeing the result on the screen.

‘Avatar’ also improved the performance of the digital actors by shooting the scenes with a rig with the camera on their head that took photos of their faces providing full motion of facial features and movements for their animated versions, in addition, a completely new way of inserting a new dialogue or facial scan on top of an already made scene was developed. He also created a camera system using 3D fusion, which he had already developed in 2003 for his film ‘Ghosts of the Abyss’.


But the biggest breakthrough, and the one that continues to be used more and more, is the ability to “steer” within an imagined world. First with the use of the Simul-Cam to give the Pandora a better result in real time. The use of this technique allowed the director to view the virtual backgrounds simultaneously while directing, instead of spending almost a year to see the result, then only what is inside the shot is improved, from a rock to a tree and even a leaf, representing themselves individually with techniques that used 1000 terabytes of hard drives.

Everything is possible on the screen

Creator and Virtual Art Department (VAD) Supervisor Rob Powers pioneered a new approach for directors to shoot a film within an immersive non-linear virtual cinema workspace. Using NewTek LightWave 3D as the main tool, integrated rendering engine and advanced lighting to deliver high production value to the elements captured in real time. From jungle scenes to luminescent nights.

Rob’s VAD team provided detailed templates with the exact location of the plants, camera movement, shot composition, lighting and even atmospheric cues for the film, which allowed for many unthinkable directing decisions that previously required months to get to post-production, completing the innovative Virtual Filmmaking workflow that Cameron used to create ‘Avatar.’

Avatar The Way Of Water

Now, we have assimilated these types of green screen techniques and we depend on creativity of the directors, who are sometimes limited to mediating so that everything works and little else. There are innumerable creative advantages, but the truth is that we just don’t seem to be impressed by anything anymore. Anything is possible, so we know that anything can be “animated” for the screen, so there’s a circus element lost along the way.

The viewer wants a little more circus

It’s no wonder that’Top Gun: Maverick‘ has managed to be a title that has captivated audiences and critics simultaneously, seeing Tom Cruise drive a fighter, the fact that many times you don’t know what is supported in CGI and what is real, makes the experience more exciting and dizzying. It is not necessarily better, but it does come in a year in which the 250 million ‘Thor: Love and Thunder‘ have left shots that don’t even reach the level, not of ‘Avatar’, but of some 2002 movies.

The comfort of being able to manage in a digital world also leads to laziness, or creates habit among executives, who push impossible deadlines that make everything look the same. there is an eeffect of homogeneity between products that sometimes means that there are no changes in lighting or textures. And this is where ‘Avatar: The Sense of Water’ does succeed, which is to improve the presence of the simulation with respect to what we are seeing in Marvel. Perhaps waiting 13 years between projects and not 13 weeks has its reward.


But even with this great visual result, it hasn’t quite aroused the same sensation that the original caused at the time, and, beware, its innovations may have also cost a lot of research and work. What makes it clear is that 3D in movie theaters has not caught on and the idea of ​​48 frames per second is still just as bad as when we saw ‘The Hobbit‘. Maybe what we really miss is the James Cameron who smashed trucks or played with planes and worked with specialists, but the consequences of his last show are yet to be seen.

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‘Avatar’: the before and after in the blockbuster after the bombing of James Cameron and why not all its innovations have been for the better

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