'Avatar' Sequels to Incorporate New Virtual Production Techniques

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Twentieth Century Fox

The top pirated film of all time, according to a study released by TorrentFreak in October 2011, is James Cameron's 3D epic, Avatar. The film has been downloaded some 21 million times since its release in 2009. Cameron once touted 3D filmmaking as the entertainment industry's best hope for fighting piracy, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have helped his film escape its pirated fate. The film has raked in nearly $2.8 billion in wordwide theatrical gross nonetheless.

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James Cameron's Lightstorm teamed with Weta and Autodesk to develop new virtual production technology.

James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, has teamed with VFX house Weta Digital and entertainment content software developer Autodesk to develop virtual production technology for use in the production of the planned Avatar sequels.

“Creating the virtual production pipeline on Avatar was a groundbreaking process that only enabled us to scratch the surface of what is possible,” said Cameron in a released statement. “Together with Autodesk and Weta Digital, we have used the knowledge gained from this first experience to clearly define the ideal process and then develop the technology needed to streamline our workflow. With the resulting pipeline, on the Avatar sequels, I will be able to devote more of my energy to the creative side of the moviemaking process, and dig deeper into all that is possible with virtual production.”

The notion of virtual production effectively means that the director and collaborators can see their digital assets in an interactive world live on-set, so they can make creative decisions more quickly.

“After completing Avatar, we had a clear understanding of the developments needed to make the process more creative and efficient,” reads a statement from Joe Letteri, senior digital effects supervisor at Weta Digital, which won an Oscar for its VFX work on Avatar, as is currently working on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. “We knew that by bringing the whole digital pipeline more in line with the traditional onset style of shooting we could open up brand new ways for directors like Jim to make their films.”

Some of the tools resulting from the collaboration have been incorporated into the latest versions of certain Autodesk entertainment creation software, such as Motion Builder and Maya, which are on display at CG confab Siggraph. The conference runs through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.