Monday, November 29, 2010

Cameron to co-chair Oklahoma City benefit

Academy Award-winning director James Cameron and wife Suzy Amis Cameron will serve as honorary chairs for the Oklahoma City chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual gala this Friday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
Cameron, the director of well-known films like “Titanic,” “Terminator” and “Avatar,” will assist in honoring the event’s special guests that include Jeannette and Dick Sias as the “Breath of Life Award” recipients and Jackie Miller as the “David Kenworthy Kerr Award” recipient.
Suzy Amis Cameron is a native Oklahoman who has appeared in films “The Usual Suspects” and “Titanic,” as well as serving as the founder of a non-profit school in Los Angeles.
“Our nephew has cystic fibrosis, and we have witnessed first-hand the daily challenges each person with CF has to overcome,” she said. “When he was born, people with cystic fibrosis often did not live to graduate from high school. The medical advances supported by the CF Foundation have given people with CF the ability to live longer, fuller lives. We are honored to be a part of ensuring that this progress moves forward.”
Mrs. Oklahoma, Alyssa Siler, also is scheduled to attend the event with husband, Ryan. Their 4-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. also will be honored for its involvement in supporting research.

Autodesk CEO: We’ll make ‘Avatar’ on an iPad

“Over the past 15 years, every movie that has won an Academy Award in the US for visual effects used our software,” says Carl Bass.

Autodesk Inc. president and CEO Carl Bass fits in well with the milieu of GarageGeeks in Holon, where every few weeks Dr. Yossi Vardi hosts a global technology personage.

Bass enthusiastically relates his history in independent building products, which is perfectly tailored to GarageGeeks’s activity. His eyes light up when he speaks with the participants on the sales strategy for software on the Appstore, and he waxes nostalgic about Autodesk’s early days.

Bass felt at home at a recent meeting, which is not something to be taken for granted when talking about one of the less sexy software companies in an era of mobile electronics and humancomputer interfaces taken from the pages of science fiction, which attract all the attention.

“Our software is not interesting, unless you give it to creative people who do interesting things,” says Bass, almost apologizing for the need to explain how AutoDesk’s veteran AutoCAD software is used to design products and buildings.

But Autodesk, which has a Nasdaq market cap of $8.2 billion, has another side, one that is much more relevant to contemporary interesting technology. In recent years, the company has also been involved in the design of many leading electronic products – even in the design of animated characters in movies such as Avatar and 3-D games.

“Over the past 15 years, every movie that has won an Academy Award in the US for visual effects used our software,” says Bass.

Bass’s visit to Israel took place as the result of an acquisition made a year ago.

“We acquired a company called PlanPlatform, which was previously called VisualTao,” he says. “I promised at the time to visit Israel, and now I’ve popped over here on my way back from India.”

Autodesk has an R&D center in Israel as a result of the acquisition, which pursues PlanPlatform’s technology to develop remote access to engineering design software via the Internet.

Another use, which is relevant to our times and closely resembles science fiction, is design for synthetic biological needs; in other words, artificial organs.

But the most interesting topic that Bass talks about is the use of software in the contemporary computer era, since Autodesk has options on all the hot topics in this world: cloud computing, the iPhone, iPad and 3-D.

“Something crazy is happening in the world of mobile telephone applications,” says Bass. “A year ago, some of our guys began a project unauthorized by management, in which they adapted the software to work with the iPhone. We didn’t believe that anyone would want to use it, but we were wrong. There is big use.”

Bass said the illustrations created following the use of Sketchbook software for iPhone’s has caused millions of users to consider buying the software.

“We’ve been in the business for 28 years, and 10 [million] to 12 million copies of our software have been purchased to date,” he says. “That’s a lot, but it’s only an average of 11 million over all the years, and all of a sudden half a million people bought the software at the application store. This was the cheapest project we ever did, which reached more people than any other project. It surprised me.”

The vision of the software is to combine cloud computing and 3-D printers, which can produce complete products at home or in the office from a range of materials.

Bass imagines the time when people will be able to order from home; in other words, to actually design, for example, shoes via the application that will be available through cloud computing. Bass did not mention a timetable for this vision, but he was prepared to be more specific about another topic: the ability of private users to create high-quality 3-D movies at home.

“Very soon, users will be able to sit with an iPad at home and make a movie like Avatar,” Bass says.

Avatar moves to a new dimension

It's not every day you get a guided tour behind the scenes of the most successful film of all time and, no less, by the acclaimed director himself.

The movie, of course, is Avatar and the director James Cameron.

The Oscar-winning director has already confirmed he will be making two Avatar sequels.

“There’s a lot of writing, a lot of designing and there’s a lot of tech work that we’re going to do,” Cameron said.

“What I can tell you is this - our plan right now is to make two and three together as a single large production released a year apart.”

The busy director is also planning on writing an Avatar novel before he tackles the sequels.

“If this movie was based on a book, what would that book have been,” he said.

“How about the 30 years before Jake got to Pandora? The discovery of the planet, Grace’s (Sigourney Weaver’s character) arrival there - all the back-story.

“All the context for what happens in the story and then everything lateral to what you see in the movie, whether it’s things that are happening off-camera or things that are happening inside the characters’ heads.”

But Cameron isn’t done the original Avatar yet.

After a record-breaking run at the box-office and another record-breaking release on DVD and Blu-ray, a Collectors Edition of the film will be released.

It features an extra 16 minutes including an alternate opening set on Earth along with 45 minutes of extended and deleted scenes plus a feature length documentary with Cameron, producer Jon Landau and the talented crew which brought the script to life.

This team of gifted artists, designers, animators and effects wizards were brought back for a special event to demonstrate how their skills were put to work on the film.

To create an entirely new world with new characters and culture for Avatar was no easy task so when the film began we were introduced to the wondrous and dangerous planet.

Our tour of Pandora begins.


Neville Page was the lead creature designer on Avatar and that meant coming up with a look for everything that lives, moves and breathes from the Nav’i to the many creatures who roam its poisonous surface.

Page’s resume includes work on Cloverfield, The Watchmen and X-Men 2 and 3 before working on Avatar. Page said he already had a starting point with director James Cameron presenting him with detailed drawings of what he had in mind.

“Jim’s an artist and that was great for us because he had such a clear vision,” Page said.

John Rosengrant was the character design supervisor who started his career being mentored by Stan Winston when effect wizard was working the 1984 sci-fi epic which put James Cameron on the map - The Terminator.

For Avatar, Rosengrant created a number of props from the smallest gun or tool to the large rideable AMP suits which were shoot in the live action scenes rather than be created with CGI.


Robert Stromberg, Avatar’s art director, says the film started with a piece of pen and paper as they core group who began on the project tried to work out what Pandora looked like.

“We were asked to create an entire world literally down to the texture of the moss on every rock and everything in between,” he said.

And it wasn’t like Stromberg could head off to the store and buy props. Everything seen in Avatar had to be created and built from scratch.

And despite the objects being scene in CGI-heavy scenes each item still had to be created and scanned into the computer so that’s its texture, shape and the way it interacted with character when being used can be captured.

Yuri Bartoli , the supervising visual art director, had a hand in designing the creatures and environments of Pandora which took more than five years from start to finish.

“The organic nature of the production was unique because the technology allowed Jim to make changes on the fly and create what we used to call these designs feedback – we would design something and then we would hand it off to a prop builder or a CG artist and they would sculpt it into the computer,” Bartoli said.

And once it was on the computer everything was adjustable – need that floating mountain a little bigger – a few mouse clicks and it was done. Need to move the trees and make them smaller – it only took a matter of seconds to achieve.

All of these methods also applied to the costumes which were designed by Deborah Scott whose previous credits included Back To The Future and Titanic. Once the costumes were designed and made they were captured digitally so they could move, flow and drape like a real garment.


One of the landmark achievements of Avatar was the creation of CGI characters based on actor performance and an environment that James Cameron could still visualise in real time and direct his actors through each scene.

Once the environment was created it is saved into a computer system and scaled to the size of the motion capture stage where the actors will be performing.

This was called The Volume. Once actors stepped onto the stage or The Volume Cameron was able to use a virtual camera which was a small monitor mounted on a curved handle with motion sensors along the surface.

Whenever he moved this camera the screen reflected the part of The Volume he was looking at so he would know if he was looking at a tree, a rock or any other object.

He could also see the actors, fitted with motion capture cameras and sensors, as they would look as Nav’i completely to scale against the background they were being filmed against.


Joe Letteri, the three-time Academy Award winner, had his work cut out for him when he took on Avatar.

His main challenge was to capture an actor’s complete performance with their bodies and the faces right down to the smallest twitch and expression.

For their bodies actors were clothed in tights which were dotted the motion capture sensors.

But it was the technique developed for the actors faces which would be the real breakthrough.

Letteri created headrigs for each actor which would contain a tiny camera aimed at their face. Motion capture dots were then pained on each of their so the finest detail of every expression can be captured accurately.

And by having the camera at a constant position from each actor’s face there was no need to other cameras on set to capture those minute details.

The result was the most defined CGI characters ever seen on screen which remained an exact reflection of the actor’s performance.

On the Avatar Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray there is the option of viewing a an hour of the film as picture in picture showing the actor’s actual performance on the motion capture stage alongside the actual finished CGI scene.


The Nav’i – the indigenous population of Pandora – needed not only their own look and design they also needed their own language.

The task of creating a brand new language from scratch for the Nav’i fell to Paul Frommer, a communications professor from the University of Southern California.

Frommer took more than six months to create a vocabulary of original words, phrases and pronunciations along with rules for the use of verbs and nouns just like existing languages.

He then created MP3 files to make it easier for the actors to learn and speak the language so they could understand each other and concentrate on their performances.

The other part of the Pandora world which features quite prominently is the plant life and to ensure realism botanical consultant Jodie Holt was hired.

Holt, a professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, was called create and name specific plants and a credible look and behaviour to exist on a planet with Pandora’s climate and conditions.

Avatar Collector’s Edition is released on November 24.

* Stephen Fenech travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

James Cameron: ‘explorer by heart, filmmaker by trade’

The Transformational Canadians program celebrates 25 living citizens who have made a difference by immeasurably improving the lives of others. Readers were invited to nominate Canadians who fit this description. Over several weeks, a panel of six judges will select 25 Transformational Canadians from among the nominees.

Nominations remain open until November 26. Submit yours today.

James Cameron, film director and producer, has been selected as one of 25 Transformational Canadians.


In executive suites across the country, James Cameron’s much-publicized September visit to Alberta must have set tongues a-clucking. After calling the province’s oil sands a “black eye” for Canada, the supremely confident Hollywood director had been invited to come see them for himself.

Mr. Cameron ended his brief tour – which included meetings with local politicians and aboriginal leaders – by calling on the Alberta government to do a better job of managing oil-sands pollution. To his credit, he showed a sophisticated knowledge of current conservation efforts. And as a native of Chippawa, Ont., Mr. Cameron couldn’t be written off as a Yankee megastar delivering Canadians a patronizing lecture on the environment.

For the creator of the Terminator series and the groundbreaking 3-D blockbuster Avatar – which has a strong environmental message – ecological collapse is a central feature of the apocalyptic vision that drives his art.

“All life on Earth is connected, in ways which human science is still grappling to understand,” Mr. Cameron told author Rebecca Keegan in an interview for her 2009 book The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron. “We have taken from nature without giving back, and the time to pay the piper is coming.”

Mr. Cameron articulates his grim outlook in films that are visually transporting but anchored in gritty and believable characters. His work has changed how people see the world – and transformed cinema. It’s also made him one of the planet’s most powerful and successful directors, with some US $6 billion in box-office receipts. Avatar and 1997’s Titanic – which won Oscars for best picture and best director – are the two top-grossing movies in history.

Anyone who runs a business has good reason to respect Mr. Cameron, 56, who got where he is through ingenuity and hard work. By all accounts fearless, he’s wrung incredible feats from his crews and actors – though not always kindly. He’s also survived for most of his career without the services of an agent.

Transplanted to California when his family moved there in 1971, Mr. Cameron broke into film by working as a model maker for low-budget icon Roger Corman. His first directorial success came in 1984 with The Terminator, which earned US $78 million on its slender US $6.4 million budget. With female lead Sarah Connor – played by Linda Hamilton, the fourth of Mr. Cameron’s five wives – this sci-fi classic ushered action-movie heroines into the mainstream.

A polymath who is equal parts artist and engineer, the famously exacting Mr. Cameron went on to push the boundaries of filmmaking technology. In the 1989 deep-sea epic The Abyss and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, he and special-effects shop Industrial Light & Magic brought realistic computer-generated characters to the big screen.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Cameron co-founded Digital Domain, which is now a leading provider of computerized visual effects for feature films. After following up Titanic with a string of underwater documentaries, he revitalized and revolutionized 3-D movies by taking Avatar audiences to the luminous planet Pandora. A blend of live action and computer animation, Avatar was shot using a new 3-D camera system that Mr. Cameron helped invent.

“I’m an explorer by heart, a filmmaker by trade,” he explained to Ms. Keegan. “There is nothing that Hollywood can offer more tantalizing or powerful than the chance to explore a place nobody has ever seen.”

For someone with a reputation as a tyrannical boss, the gun-loving auteur sounds positively moderate on the subject of leadership. “I think Canadian leaders tend to, you know, be less personal, less mud-slinging. I’m not saying they’re devoid of it, but I think they’re less prone to dirty politics,” Mr. Cameron told The Globe’s Josh Wingrove during his Alberta visit. “We’re just a little bit more decent in the way we get things resolved.”

On that note, Mr. Cameron also admitted that he used to be hotheaded and rude on the set – a leadership style he now regards as counterproductive. “You have to inspire people to do their best by respecting them,” he said. “Even going into a room where you know going in that you’re probably going to disagree with almost everything the other person says, if you respect them, you’ll still find some way to be constructive. And if you don’t, then you can yell at them.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Avatar Blu-ray & More New Blu-ray Reviews

20th Century Fox
Rating 5 (out of five)

While it's not quite a classic movie in my book, Fox has put together such an irresistible three-disc box set that it deserves five stars.

As well as the original theatrical release and special edition re-release, Fox includes a three-hour extended cut with 16 minutes of additional footage.

And get this -- there's more than eight hours of extras, including a feature-length documentary, cast and crew interviews, 17 "making of" featurettes, more than 45 minutes of deleted scenes and an image gallery containing more than 600 slides. If you buy little Johnny this for Christmas, don't expect to see him much before New Year's.

The special effects rule in this story of greedy humans (that's us) at war with nature-loving humanoid aliens called the Na'vi for the resources of their beautiful planet Pandora. Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) uses an "avatar" body that makes him look like the Na'vi so he can infiltrate and spy on them.

Slowly enlightened by the Na'vi customs -- and entranced by his female teacher, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) -- Scully "goes native" and is soon fighting his own side, which is led by the nasty Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The plot sounds familiar because it's Dances With Wolves set in the far future. Naturally, it looks fantastic in high definition, though all the digital magic makes it look a little unreal. No matter, it's a spectacle that all fans will want -- particularly those with a decent home theatre setup.

Rodriguez wants 'Avatar 2' return

Michelle Rodriguez has hinted that she may return in James Cameron's ocean-set sequel to Avatar.

The actress played pilot Trudy Chacon in the first film, who died during the final battle. She told Total Film that she would like to work with Cameron again.

She said: "Jim Cameron can kill me anytime. It's a pleasure to die for him! But Jim'll tell you himself... in science fiction films nobody really dies".

"I would work with him in a heartbeat. He's so intelligent. He's like Yoda, man."

Avatar 2 is set to be released in 2014, with a further sequel coming the following year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

James Cameron Demonstrates The Virtual Camera

On Tuesday you saw the Simulcam, one of the revolutionary new camera technologies developed by James Cameron to make Avatar. The other is The Virtual Camera, and in today’s video from the special behind the scenes event we attended recently, James Cameron himself shows us how this new technology is changing the way CG films will be made in future.

The ability to separate the actor’s performances from the technical process of getting ‘the perfect shot’ really delivers a great boost for getting the best of both. The actors can do their thing without fear of a technical problem ruining a perfect take, and the director can focus on first getting the actors to deliver what he wants before later returning to perfect the actual shots used to film that perfect performance.

This really shows James Cameron did a lot more than make an absolute killing at the bank with Avatar. He also developed entire new technologies that will help other filmmakers get more from their digital efforts in future.

We got this special access to the technologies behind Avatar to coincide with the release of Avatar Extended Collectors Edition, which is out now on Blu-ray.

Wanna be the first to get AVATAR in 3D? Then line up to buy a Panasonic 3D-TV

It's true. James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar" drove Blu-ray sales to the point where the discs saw an 86 percent increase during a period which saw DVDs sagging 14 percent. Now industry-watchers are wondering if the Blue-men group can have the same effect on 3D-TV sales, which have been disappointing so far.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox and Panasonic have struck a deal that would make the 3D version of "Avatar" first available to purchasers of Panasonic 3D TVs.

The Hollywood Reporter story has some interesting quotes from James Cameron as well.

Weaver: 'Cameron's drive comes from his mum'

The actress, who has starred in Cameron's Avatar and Aliens films, admits she always thought there was something special about the visionary director and the way he presents women in his films.

She tells WENN, "During the roll out (publicity tour) of Avatar, I got to meet Jim's mother and there's something about her; she has the beautiful blue eyes and she's very calm and she raised these three sons, all extraordinary and all very much who they are.

"There is great strength that emanates from his mother... Jim is very impatient with people who underestimate women. There's a reason."

And Weaver reveals the blue alien princess Neytiri in Cameron's Avatar was inspired by a picture he drew as a gift for his mum - when he was just 14.

She explains, "He's told me that he first drew Neytiri when he was 14. He drew this picture of a blue princess for his mother as a gift. There's something about her that has inspired Jim."

Avatar arrives at Regina's IMAX Theatre

Avatar, the Oscar-nominated film that took movie technology to the next level, is now coming to the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s IMAX Theatre in 3D.

The movie by Canadian Director James Cameron will be screened at the Science Centre until early January. It will be projected on two reels of special 70 millimetre IMAX film. Each film reel weighs over 800 lbs and is well over 10 miles long.

Sandra Baumgartner from the Saskatchewan Science Centre says there was a lot of buzz about having Avatar come to the IMAX.

“When we were looking at film selections and talking to our viewers, people that were coming up as something that people really wanted to see,” Baumgartner said.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Avatar 3D Blu-Ray Discs Hitting $400

There is a sure way to extinguish that last light that keeps current 3D TVs on life support. Keep content scarce to support nose-bleed prices and keep movies out of reach for average consumers. If you want to see Avatar in 3D at home today, you will need to shell out at least $300 and possibly as much as $400.

Buying a 3D TV today must feel like to you are taken for a ride virtually every time you turn around. First you are asked to pay a premium over regular LED TVs, then you are told you only get one pair of glasses, with each additional pair costing somewhere around $150.

3D Blu-ray discs have also been sold for a premium, but there are now limited edition discs that are so short in supply that you won’t find them in stores, but only on eBay. Don’t ask us why it is exactly Avatar that is such a limited edition, while it could be the most attractive title for 3D TVs. If you want to see Avatar in 3D on your home TV, you should budget about $300 for the disc. Bidding currently starts at $275 and the most confident buy-it-now price on eBay at the time of this writing is $399.

It is generally believed that Avatar 3D will be generally available to Panasonic 3D TV buyers sometime in December. The general release is expected for 2011.

We are not aware of any regular store supply for this movie, but we did notice that 40″ TVs dropped below $300 for the first this Black Friday, 32″ TVs below $200 and 40+” LED TVs dropped below $700. 3D TV deals were largely offered in bundles, but prices are well above $1000 and miss the mainstream market by a long shot.

You have to wonder whether the industry is really serious about 3D TV.

What James Cameron Can’t Tell You about the Oil Sands

When movie director James Cameron descended upon the Athabasca oil sands a while back, Albertans were subjected to the predictable but nonetheless aggravating media blitz of misinformation that occurs when a mega-star chooses a cause to elevate.

The elevation came in the form of a supercilious warning to put the brakes on the world’s second largest proved oil reserve. It could, he feared, become a curse if not properly managed. This revelation came upon reflection via a government sponsored helicopter tour and a token chat with a group of not-so disenfranchised First Nations peoples in the area. (In 2009, oil sands companies contracted more than $890 million for goods and services from Aboriginal owned businesses and employed 1600 Aboriginals in permanent jobs).

And with that, Mr. Cameron and the media were able to close the case on the oil sands, as Mr. Cameron purportedly had to jet. It’s not Mr. Cameron’s fault, completely. The oil complex is just that – complex. It’s not the kind of business one just picks up as a hobby horse. Sure, Cameron can regurgitate the technical terminology if he likes. It would be difficult for a techno-geek of titanic proportions to resist a sexy term like steam gravity assisted drainage (SAGD).

Here is where I suggest “putting the brakes on.” Perhaps a moratorium on incendiary statements by celebutantes or politicians a-la-Pelosi who are not able to, because of their lack of training, do the type of deep comprehensive assessment required for these matters.

There are a few facts that cannot be disputed and you will get those out of Mr. Cameron, the enviro-statist and their press sycophants. In this case it can be narrowed down to just two: the area containing the deposit and the size of the estimated reserves in Alberta. Then it’s down the rabbit hole we go.

The oil sands deposit covers an area that would equate to the size of England (54,132 square miles). For Americans without passports, that is the size of the state of New York. Of the total 170.4 billion barrels of remaining established reserves, about 80% is considered recoverable through in-situ (no tailings ponds and contrary to what is stated results in significantly lower GHG and energy intensity) the remaining 20% will be mined. Total estimated reserves are actually 1.7 trillion barrels but at this stage only 10% are recoverable at current technologies and prices.

To put these numbers to reality, to date only 0.3% of the total oil sands area has been disturbed, roughly equal to a small to medium sized city. Even more crucial to understand is that as only 3% of the total surface area could ever be mined (the deposits lie deeper than 75 meters) which leaves 97% of the surface area with some, but not much, industry impact. Mathematically this scales the land disturbance of oil sands development back to about 0.5% the size of England, and all area that are mined need to have a reclamation plan laid out by producers. In respect to Alberta’s boreal forest, in 40 years of oil sands activity, a mere 0.02% of the boreal forest has been disturbed.

In 2007 Alberta became the first jurisdiction in North America to legislate GHG reductions for large emitters. However, industry had already vastly mitigated its footprint and has every incentive to do so. Less energy in for every barrel of oil out means increased cash flows. Strong show of cash flows increases marketability to shareholders and helps shield a company from the inherit volatility of commodity prices. At current rates of production, 2.6 MMbbls/d, about half bitumen (WCS) and half synthetic light (SCO), the oil sands are responsible for 0.1 percent of total world emissions and that number is doubtful to increase much even if production ramps up to 4MMbbls/d as projected by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

As far as climate change is concerned, the oil sands are not really Alberta’s dirty secret at all. Environmentalists may still choose to call this resource “tar sands” like the brat at school who won’t let a nickname die, but they would be better served to make their mockumentaries where GHG is unregulated such as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, or Venezuela where Hugo Chavez may believe he can bend time and space. And of course there’s no place like home; the GHG from the oil sands equates to only 1% of the emissions of the U.S. power sector where coal happens to be the “King of the World.”

Just like little bit of meat will never do for a vegan, neither will a little bit of oil development for an environmentalist. Therefore there will always be an entire portion of the story that the enviro-statists will obfuscate. This is the basic social cost/benefit analysis that economists are required to do.

As the leading exporter of crude and petroleum products to the United States, Canada is not only the safest, most secure supplier, but an economic partner. The North American energy complex is one of the most valuable business chains in the world precisely because every aspect from Main Street to Wall Street is linked and integrated. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will depend on the oil sands both directly and indirectly in the coming decades. The input goods, materials, and services for oil sands and in the U.S. oil shale – tires, trucks, gauges, pumps, steel, are produced across North America. It is this understanding of the political economy of North American oil, and how it positively impacts the average person, which the enviro-statist circumvents every time.

As one final example I will let Mr. Cameron’s own words to MSNBC hit the nail on the head. “[T]here’s an opportunity for all of North America to be weaned to some extent off of OPEC oil so that’s why it makes me very nervous… we need more science… we have the capacity for ecological disaster here on an unprecedented scale…”

As standards of living and GDP per capita increases worldwide and millions of individuals are lifted out of poverty, the global demand for energy is expected to increase by as much as 40% over the next two decades. Given even the most ambitious outlook for alternatives, biomass, hydro, and nuclear, unconventional oil remains the integral component of non-OPEC supply. There would be no realistic manner to supplant unconventional production other than increasing the call-on OPEC crude.

In reality, the disaster has been averted. Thankfully, enough people understand the inextricable link between North America’s oil (and gas) resources and economic growth and prosperity for all.

Avatar Extended Collector's Edition Blu-Ray Review

I’ll be honest, at this stage in the game, it’s kind of hard to talk about Avatar. The film is pretty much a year old and what can really be said about it that hasn’t already been said before? Unless you’ve literally been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve heard of the film and even if you don’t know it by the name Avatar, I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘blue people’ movie. The impact it had on not only the filmmaking world, but society as a whole was massive. It grossed over 2 billion dollars and revolutionized the way movies are made. It started a 3D trend and inspired numerous filmmakers.

All that being said, if you are one of the five people who haven’t yet seen the film, I’d like to direct you to Metacritic as you will find more than enough reviews there. Rather then waste your time by having you read a review on a film that you’ve no doubt read plenty of reviews on, I’ll give you just a quick recap of what I thought about it.

Having seen the film three times (twice in theaters and once on Blu-Ray), I’ve still never been overly impressed with it. From a technological and filmmaking standpoint the film is astonishing, I’m not denying that. But as a movie, on the whole, it’s not terribly impressive. I like to think of the film as more of a technological showcase, showing us what movies can be and what the future of film holds for us. And on that front, it more than succeeds.

Between the ham handed environmental messages and the ‘make peace not war’ motto that follows the film throughout, Avatar‘s story comes off as cheesy and uninspired, not to mention it’s practically a rip off of Dances With Wolves or Pocahontas. The dialogue is clumsily written and the characters are just so poorly crafted, especially Jake Sully. Avatar is all about the technology. If someone else had made the film, and hadn’t used all the nifty and fancy effects that Cameron did, the movie would have turned out to be very different, it would have got panned by critics. Avatar‘s selling point is the impressive technology and it’s important that you realize this. In fact, the story and characters are near irrelevant, it’s all about the special effects here. And while they are damn impressive and easily awe-inspiring, they can’t carry the entire film.

It’s immersive and definitely well worth a watch, at least once, just so you can be dazzled by the effects, but after an initial viewing, it really isn’t worth watching again, aside from maybe putting it on as demo material for your home theater. The cheesiness, dull characters, far too long runtime and just the general blandness of the plot, makes this nothing more than a technical showcase.

It’s hard to find a bad looking Blu-Ray nowadays, especially in regards to major films. That being said, some do look better than others but the majority of them look pretty solid. Now while most films look good on Blu-Ray, some go above and beyond the regular expectations, Avatar is one of those films. Like a few other Blu-Rays this year, most notably Toy Story 3, Avatar dazzles on Blu-Ray. In both the audio and video departments, this is a home run.

As mentioned before, this is most certainly demo material. The world of Pandora springs to life here and it looks absolutely fantastic when played on a big screen. At times, you are so immersed in the world of Pandora that you can almost forget about everything else that’s wrong with the film. Boasting pristine detail and vibrant colors that hop off the screen, the video quality of Avatar is flawless and very flooring.

While most may be so enamored by the visuals that the forget to take in the audio, I urge you not to do so. The audio is equally as good here. What really shines is the superb score by James Horner. It’s even better than I remember it in theaters and it sounds equally as good. Some of the big battle scenes also stand out, specifically the fights at the end. Effects like gunfire rumble through the room the noise of trees crashing sound so real you may be jumping out of your seat if you have surround sound. Dialogue is mixed flawlessly and ambient sounds are added in fittingly, all coming together to provide quite the aural experience.

When it comes to special features, thankfully this collector’s edition lives up to its name. Boasting three discs, we are treated to quite a nice array of features. Firstly, there are three versions of the film here, the theatrical release, the special edition re-release and the collector’s extended cut. On the first disc, we get a nice/useful feature that allows us to have direct access to any of the new scenes, whether it be on the special edition re-release or collector’s extended cut. You can choose to watch them one by one or you can choose the play all feature.

Disc two kicks off with deleted scenes. Boasting over an hour’s worth, a lot of it is throwaway and there isn’t anything really significant here. It’s like with most films, watch them if you’re a hardcore fan of the film but if not, skip it. Also on the second disc is a very good behind the scenes documentary. Running at an hour and forty minutes, this can be watched in four separate parts or all together.

This is the real meat and potatoes of the Blu-Ray. It is here that you’ll really gain a new appreciation for the film. It shows us all the stages of production and just how much work went into the film. For those unfamiliar with filmmaking and for those who may not realize just how massive this film really is in terms of scope, this is worth a watch. You really appreciate the film a lot more after sitting through this. We are literally taken right from the start when Cameron came up with the idea all the way to the film’s release. It really gives us a good idea of the technological struggles that Cameron and crew had to overcome. Even if you hated the film I suggest you watch this, you’ll have a new appreciation for it.

Rounding out the second disc is some junk documentary called A Message To Pandora. It talks about environmentalism and Cameron’s activism in the field. It’s essentially worthless. Finally, we get some production materials that run just under an hour and a half. While none of it is as interesting as the behind the scenes documentary, if you’re a fan of the film you should check it out. The list is as follows:

* The 2006 Art Reel
* Brother Termite Test
* The ILM Prototype
* Screen Test – Sam Worthington (Raw Footage)
* Screen Test – Zoe Saldana (Raw Footage)
* Zoe’s Life Cast (Raw Footage)
* James Cameron Speech: Beginning of Live Action Filming (Raw Footage)
* ILM VFX Progression
* Framestore VFX Progression
* [Hy.Drau'lx] VFX Progression
* Hybride VFX Progression
* Prime Focus VFX Progression
* Look Effects, Inc. VFX Progression
* Crew Film: The Volume

Finally, on disc three we are treated to a few nice features. First is scene deconstruction, where for certain scenes you can toggle between three views. The way it looks in the film, the template and the way it looks in motion capture. It’s interesting to see how some of the scenes looked during motion capture and it’s worth checking this feature out, if not just for a few scenes.

We are then treated to even more featurettes, which all run for a couple of minutes each, and of course, we get the necessary promotional material.

So, at the end of the day, where does this leave us? Would I recommend a purchase? Yes, I would. Despite not having loved the film, the sheer technical advancements that the film displays, mixed with the flawless transfer and above average special features, makes this worth a purchase. Some may say that while Avatar may be a special effects festival, it’s enough to carry the film. I’m not sure I agree. While it certainly isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That being said, it’s definitely worth watching once and due to the transfer, special features and demo worthy material you’ll be getting here, you should probably consider a purchase.
Movie Score: 7/10
Video Score: 10/10
Audio Score: 10/10
Special Features Score: 9/10

* Pros:
o A stunning technical achievement
o Demo worthy on the audio and video front
o In depth and interesting special features
* Cons:
o The film itself really isn’t that special
o Good for one viewing but you may not want to watch it again once you’ve seen it
o Cheesy script and poorly written characters

Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition was released on Blu-Ray on November 16th, 2010

Avatar Extended Collector's Edition Extra: James Cameron's Inspiration

Acclaimed director James Cameron's Avatar captured the imaginations of moviegoers around the world with its ground-breaking special effects and its lush, beautiful, and sometimes deadly alien creatures and landscapes, becoming the highest-grossing theatrical release of all time and the highest selling Blu-ray release, as well as the fastest. But, where did Cameron come up with the idea to make Avatar after basically abandoning feature filmmaking for documentaries?

In a bonus feature on the newly released Avatar Extended Collector's Edition Blu-ray and DVD, Cameron said that there was "no single moment of inspiration," crediting his "entire childhood" growing up in rural Canada with the impetus for the movie.

I spent all of my time in the woods. I loved critters, you know. I would catch anything that moved and study it, keep it as a pet…so, I grew up with this, kind of, profound sense of wonder about nature and I was also a science fiction and fantasy fan from the earliest time I can remember.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

'Avatar': Behind the scenes at Weta Digital

New Zealand may be known as the home of Lord of the Rings, but you may not know that it is also the unofficial birthplace of Avatar.

You see, Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop in Wellington is behind the special effects of films such as Heavenly Creatures and Prince Caspian. But more famously, it has produced the effects in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and now Avatar. In fact, the company was working up until July 2010 to finish work on the Extended Edition of the Avatar Blu-ray.

Weta not only produced the effects for the film, but most of the live-action sequences were also shot in its New Zealand studios.

To celebrate the release of the Avatar Extended Collector's Edition, CNET Australia was taken behind the scenes at Weta studios to witness how the movie was made. As this extensive photo gallery shows, we were taken through each step of the process — from motion capture through to the finished product.

To see our behind-the-scenes video click through to our story 'Ultimate' Avatar Blu-ray lands, but not 3D yet.

Avatar writer/director James "Jim" Cameron and producer Jon Landau (above right) chose Weta to work on the movie following the group's work on The Return of the King.

Weta Digital's director Joe Letteri (above left) said he received a call from the director the night after the movie scooped the pool at the 76th Academy Awards. This conversation would lead to a collaboration that would flourish over the next five years.

Letteri said Avatar had a very detailed pre-production process, part of which involved creating incredibly detailed computer models. For example, he said Gollum from Lord of the Rings was made up of 5,000 polygons, while even a single plant in Avatar consisted of a million polygons.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cameron divulges 'Avatar' secrets

LOS ANGELES -- In the Na'vi language of Avatar, the now-famous saying "I see you" is expressed in similarly short, sweet fashion: "Oe Kame Nga".

This phrase is, of course, an invention and difficult to pronounce with its click sounds. At filmmaker James Cameron's urging, American linguist Paul Frommer made up the words, the sounds and the entire language and its grammatical structure. This is just one small, if significant detail serving as an indicator of how Cameron approached the Avatar universe, which he dreamed up 16 years ago and finally started turning into a film in 2005.

The goal, Cameron says now, was to make it all seem real. By "all" he means the sci-fi fantasy world of Pandora, an alien world threatened by future-shock humans who have already exhausted the natural resources of planet Earth. From the nine-foot Na'vi people to the fantastical flora and fauna of planet Pandora to the invading humans with their space-age technology, it did become real.

And so entertaining, and such a clarion call for environmentalists, that Avatar is both the highest-grossing movie ever and enormously influential among eco-activists. It is also a best-selling DVD and a Blu-ray that has tilted the home entertainment market toward high definition.

Cameron and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are due to release the new Avatar: Extended Collector's Edition in both DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday. The timing is significant because Cameron and Fox executives just announced Cameron has committed to starting on Avatar II and III immediately. They will be shot back-to-back. Avatar II is due in December 2014, and III in December 2015, assuming all goes well with the advanced technology Cameron is developing to ensure he can "future-proof" the sequels from looking antiquated when they come out. In the meantime, Cameron is also writing the Avatar novel, adding backstory to the original movie.

As a show-and-tell that mirrors what you will see on Blu-ray, Cameron hosted media at his Los Angeles studio. The purpose was to show off his team and their secrets. "The thing is, behind the characters and behind the magic are people," Cameron says. "And it's not a vast army of people, as one might imagine. It was a small core group." Many were nominated for Oscars. Most will work on the sequels.

The techniques employ range from the development of three complex new camera systems -- only one in 3D -- to evolving a sophisticated way to turn motion capture into a photo-realistic version of an actor's performance. These technologies are already "really revolutionizing the way films are being made," Cameron says, referring to his Avatar sequels and to other directors' projects.

"It was so pioneering!" he says of Avatar technology. "Nobody knew the answers. We were making it up as we went along. I've even used the metaphor that we were sewing the parachute on the way down. We always managed to stop our fall before we hit the ground ... but just barely."

The paradox is that so much of Avatar was hands-on. Artists and craftspeople made thousands of real things -- from costumes to props to sculptures of major characters -- so that digital animators could do their work. Her contribution is an example, says costume designer Deborah Scott. "Because the costumes are so organic to the environment, and there are so many cultures put together, I think they really realized -- and Jim in particular -- that they needed to have actual pieces. They couldn't just draw them. They had to be made."

Scott considered the movement of fabrics, the weight of jewelled or beaded pieces, the texture of fabrics and other materials, and how everything hung on an actor's body. "It starts with these elements that are completely old-school, and everything that I made, or I did or the problems that I solved, would just be exactly if I did it on a real human being."

The same was true for concept designs and character studies. The original team began work in Cameron's house in the Malibu hills (where, coincidentally, local coyotes inspired the vocalizations of Pandora's viperwolves, once the coyotes' yelps were mixed with hyenas' growls). "We actually started off working with pencil drawings in black-and-white," says Oscar-nominated production designer Rob Stromberg. "I like to say," says artist Yuri Bartoli, "I started off sketching at a kitchen table in my parents' house and then I ended up sketching at a table at Jim's house. We started with basic technology."

Cameron is also an artist, as well as being a writer and filmmaker. "Jim didn't need any of us," Bartoli says, only half-joking. "If he could only clone himself, this movie would have gotten done in a year or so!" But an enormous amount of work by core team members, and eventually hundreds of other technicians, did produce the final film.

"It looks effortless on the screen," says Stromberg. "But I used to say: 'I see you ... in the intensive care unit!' But, like anything painful, something good can come out of that."

Some aspects of Avatar involve subtle manipulations. Pandora is introduced to audiences as a rain-sodden, gloomy and dangerous place. Then it is revealed to us as it is to Sam Worthington's avatar version of Jake, says Stromberg. "So, over time, you as an audience member is getting to know Pandora as something beautiful. And, over more time, something that you as an audience member would want to fight for, as Jake does." But nothing is more important than the motion capture, especially involving Worthington and Zoe Saldana, who plays heroine Neytiri. The technique had been used effectively with Andy Serkis for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. But there was no facial capture then, just body work.

For Avatar, Cameron fitted actors with tiny lightweight cameras mounted from leather headgear. They hung in front of their faces while they said their lines and acted out. "I actually thought it would drive them crazy," says Cameron, "but, after the first half-day, they forgot the damn thing was there." The facial cameras gave animators real footage of the actor's eyes and facial movements, which gave their digital characters what Cameron calls "the soul of their performances."

Meanwhile, they were liberated from the usual constraints of live action filmmaking. Cameron does not need elaborate lighting or complex sets or any normal camera setups to shoot his motion capture.

These actors should now be seen in a new light and held in higher esteem, even at the Oscars, Cameron says. "Precisely! I think it needs to be understood by the wider acting community. And when they understand it, they'll see the advantages of it: That they can transcend their physicality; they can transcend their age; they can transcend their gender; they can transcend anything they want using these tools. And there is no diminishment of the performance!"

Uniquely, using what looks like a TV monitor with handles, Cameron can direct motion capture while looking at a virtual environment. "The thing about this is that it is highly instinctive." Meanwhile, in shooting live action in a studio -- which he calls "the volume" -- Cameron uses yet another innovation. It is his new simulcam camera, allowing him to film a live scene against a greenscreen background. The technology lets him see the real actors, plus a motion capture performance from elsewhere, plus a virtual background like a forest in Pandora. It happens all at the same time, Cameron says, "which to me was the biggest breakthrough of this movie. That's the wild thing!" It will most influence other filmmakers doing special effects, Cameron says.

Meanwhile, he is influencing his own craftspeople and technicians, most of whom will carry on with the sequels. All in service of James Cameron. "It's his idea," in-house designer Neville Page says of the Avatar franchise. "It's his vision. You've got to recognize, when you are hired, that you help facilitate his vision. It's really not about you. It's about helping him bring his idea to life."

Avatar pilot turns sights in whalers

Hollywood actor Michelle Rodriguez says she plans to take direct action against Antarctic whaling because the law is not working.

Rodriguez, star of the movie Avatar and the TV series Lost has tested her sea legs with Sea Shepherd activists in preparation for a campaigning spot in the summer of 2011-12.

Speaking after reaching Hobart aboard the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, she said there was no single way to bring an end to whaling.
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"But I do believe the most effective tactic at the moment to stop the whaling would definitely be direct action, because nobody listens," she said.

"You can put laws and that's great and they stop humble people who follow them, but there are those people who don't care for the laws."

She said in the case of whaling, despite national and international laws protecting whales in the Antarctic, the killing continued.

"It's like laws are set, but no money is put behind the actual enforcement."

Rodriguez said whaling was pat of a general exhaustion of the seas.

"Just in the name of having a bunch of food in developed countries thrown away. It's out of convenience. It saddens me. It feels wrong. So I'm here to do something about it."

The tough-girl actor, who played a helicopter pilot in Avatar, joined a voyage from Fremantle aboard the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.

"I got sick the first few days," she said. "And I got so scared because I want to go on campaign so bad. I want to get the full on experience and really help out. But thank God it went away after the first few days and I stopped feeling nauseous and like I'm about to die."

Sea Shepherd's leader, Paul Watson, said the group's ships, Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and a fast trimaran tentatively named Gojira (Japanese for Godzilla) plan to head south in search of the whaling fleet on December 2.

Monday, November 22, 2010

James Cameron’s Real Life Avatar Battle

James Cameron recently released a short film, created in conjunction with Amazon Watch, to raise awareness about a real life Avatar-style battle in the Amazon Rainforest. A Message From Pandora is a 20-minute feature that highlights the struggle to stop the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon.

The US$17 billion Belo Monte Dam project is the third largest hydroelectric dam project in the world and, when completed, will divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile (100km) stretch. Its reservoirs will flood more than 100,000 acres (, 156 sq.miles) of rainforest and local settlements, displacing more than 40,000 people.

James Cameron, his wife Suzy Amis Cameron and cast members of Avatar, including Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore, travelled to the Xingu River in March and April of this year accompanied by Amazon Watch.

“I hope Avatar fans will watch A Message from Pandora and join me in this critical fight to urge the Brazilian Government to reconsider the Belo Monte Dam and to encourage governments everywhere to choose greener energy alternatives like energy efficiency, wind and solar energy,” explained James Cameron.

Unfortunately, if you want to see A Message From Pandora, you have to buy the Avatar extended collector’s edition DVD.

'The Simpsons' Meet 'Avatar'

The Simpsons are television's favorite yellow-hued dysfunctional family. But what if, instead of being yellow, 'The Simpsons' turned a bit ... blue? On the new episode (Sun., 8PM ET on Fox), the show takes its now-familiar "couch gag" to unfamiliar territory: The land of the Na'vi.

After entering an "avatar machine," the Simpson family become blue-skinned "avatars" of themselves -- just like in that movie ... Um, now what's that movie called again? It's on the tip of our tongues. Oh, well. ... We'll think of it in a second.

At any rate, to return to their "homeland" (i.e., their familiar TV/living room set-up), Bart, Lisa, Homer, Marge and Maggie must brave the dangers of the strange new land. One of them must master a flying couch, and "connect" with it to get a ride back "home."

It's all good fun. And hopefully, unlike that movie 'Avatar' (that's what it's called!), the whole thing didn't cost $300 million to make. Although animation costs are rising these days, so you never know.

Super 30 founder to meet James Cameron

Anand Kumar, who founded Bihar's free coaching centre Super 30 and helped many students enter the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), will share his experience with Hollywood producer and director James Cameron next month.

"I will share the platform with James Cameron during the INK Conference next month," Anand Kumar told IANS Sunday.

The conference is held in association with Technology, Entertainment, Design ( TED), a global set of conferences aimed at promoting innovation in diverse fields.

This year's edition will be held in the city of Lavasa in Maharashtra Dec 10-12.

Anand Kumar said it was a matter of great pride that a teacher like him was given an opportunity to speak before such distinguished personalities.

"It is an honour for my state also, where I grew up and started my institute," he said.

The entry fee for the international conference will be Rs.1 lakh, event organiser Deepti Nair said.

"There is going to be a large number of people from all over the world, who are coming to see and hear these great personalities," she said.

According to her, James Cameron would be the star attraction of the programme.

"He has made many films such as 'Titanic', 'Avatar' and 'The Terminator' and has won many awards, including the Oscars," she said.

Nair also said that Anand Kumar is seen as a hero, not only in India, but also abroad.

"He is viewed as a person who, despite not being able to go to Cambridge due to financial constraints, did not give up and instead, became a ray of hope for the talented students from poor sections of the society. He is bringing about a social change," she said.

In the last three years, all 30 students of Super 30 have made it to the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) conducted by IITs. Since 2003, 212 students have made it to the IITs.

Anand Kumar, who himself missed a chance to study at Cambridge University because he didn't have enough money, gives full scholarships to every annual batch of 30 students.

They have to pass a competitive test to get into Super 30 and then commit themselves to a year of 16-hour study each day.

Anand Kumar, who started the Ramanujam School of Mathematics in 1992, founded the Super 30 in 2002.

Panasonic Offers Avatar 3D Blu-ray Exclusive for Free

From 1 December, select Panasonic Viera owners will be able to get a copy of Avatar 3D for free. A timer is up on the company site, counting down to the start of next month when further details will be announced. What little it does say indicates that owners, past, present and future are in line to get a copy of one of the hottest discs for Christmas.

panasonic, avatar, 3d, viera

The link currently takes you through to the range page for Viera models, from the 3D VT/GT25 models with the top of the line VT model weighing in at 65", which can't be that far off sitting in front of a real cinema screen. So, if you're lucky enough to own a set, get ready to grab your freebie, otherwise now might be a good time to splash out on a Viera model.

Depending on how long the exclusive lasts, this could be a great earner for Panasonic, but would just one movie sway your buying decision? Let us know.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

‘Avatar’ sequel filming starts 2011

After waffling on the issue just a week ago, James Cameron has now committed to doing two Avatar sequels as his next film project, the studio bosses at Fox Filmed Entertainment announced Wednesday.

Just last week, in an interview with QMI Agency, Cameron said he might make another movie first while developing the sophisticated technology he believes he needs to make Avatars II and III more spectacular than the original. But he has now confirmed that he will go straight ahead with the sequels, which will be shot at the same time starting in 2011.

Release dates are tentatively set for December 2014 and December 2015.

Fox co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos said in a joint statement that they are excited. “We had no higher priority, and can feel no greater joy, than enabling Jim to continue and expand his vision of the world of Avatar. This is a great day in the history of our company.”

Calling his work on Avatar “an epic journey,” Cameron said of his sequels: “It is a rare and remarkable opportunity when a filmmaker gets to build a fantasy world, and watch it grow, with the resources and partnership of a global media company.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

James Cameron's 'A Message from Pandora' Casts Spotlight on a Real AVATAR Battle

AVATAR creator James Cameron's short new documentary "A Message from Pandora," casts a timely spotlight on an epic battle to stop the massive Belo Monte Dam in the heart of Brazil's Amazon Rainforest. The twenty-minute short, a real-life AVATAR story, was released this week as a special feature on the AVATAR Extended Collector's Edition DVD at a critical moment when the Brazilian government is on the verge of deciding whether construction can begin on the world's 3rd largest hydroelectric dam project.

James Cameron and cast members of AVATAR including Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore traveled to the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon, in March and April accompanied by Amazon Watch. They visited indigenous and riverbank communities who would be affected by the Dam. Moved by the parallels between AVATAR and the frontline battles taking place in the Amazon, Cameron made a commitment to help.

"I hope AVATAR fans will watch 'A Message from Pandora' and join me in urging the Brazilian Government to reconsider the Belo Monte dam. We need to encourage governments everywhere to choose greener energy alternatives like energy efficiency, wind and solar energy," said James Cameron. "In AVATAR I refer to Earth as 'the dying Planet.' In reality, our Earth IS in peril. Future generations depend on the actions we take over the next decade."

The $17 billion dam project would divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch; its reservoirs would flood some 100,000 acres, displace more than 40,000 people and generate methane -- a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. Belo Monte is one of more than 60 dams Brazil plans to build in the Amazon over the next 20 years.

The Brazilian government will soon decide whether to give the Norte Energia consortium a green light to start building access roads and work camps. Last week the Federal Public Ministry urged Brazil's environmental protection agency, IBAMA not issue a partial installation license until Norte Energia complies with social and environmental conditions. IBAMA's technical team also released a technical assessment recommending strongly against the license. It remains to be seen whether IBAMA sides with its technical staff or allows the consortium to start construction.

How ‘Avatar’ Sequel Will Go Underwater

Now that James Cameron has confirmed plans to make two sequels to his $2 billion-plus monster hit “Avatar,” the movie industry is clamoring to know about the cutting-edge technologies he’ll be using to make the fantasy world of Pandora even more dazzling.

Cameron hasn’t said anything about the technologies yet, but he has indicated that the first sequel will take place underwater. The U.K’s Daily Mail reported that the director “has commissioned a bespoke submarine, built of high-tech, man-made composite materials and powered by electric motors, which will be capable of surviving the tremendous pressures at a depth of seven miles, from which he will shoot 3-D footage that may be incorporated in Avatar’s sequel.”

Terrence Masson says Cameron, like “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, has a “history of inventing and pushing new technologies. I’m betting [Cameron is] going to push camera manufacturers to make smaller, lighter, cheaper, more accurate 3-D stereography rigs.”

Right now, 3-D camera rigs are heavy and bulky, so it’s hard to do several camera set ups a day, says Masson, who has worked on animation at Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic and consulted for Disney and DreamWorks.

Richard Weinberg, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, says Cameron likely will use computer-generated technologies as well. “I can only guess he’ll do a combination of simulation of underwater characters and environments and take some cameras underwater like he did in ‘Titanic,’ ” Weinberg says. “If you’re filming underwater, you can only see so far. I would expect that there would be an integration of simulated underwater landscape with whatever he’s able to capture.”

Masson also says that Cameron will be sure to squeeze the most out of existing movie technologies for the “Avatar” sequels. “He optimizes existing technologies, and takes stuff out of the esoteric and bleeding edge and makes it work well on large scale productions,” Masson says.

The second “Avatar” movie is scheduled to begin filming next year and hit movie theaters in 2014; the third installment is slated for 2015.

Special peek into secret world of Avatar

MOVIE fans sick at the thought of waiting four years to revisit Pandora in the Avatar sequel can at least discover the secrets behind the blockbuster in the extended collector's edition.

Devotees can dive into the world of the Na'vi, view deleted scenes, interviews with the creators and an extended cut of Avatar and learn how the film was made.

The extended collector's edition of Avatar, to be released on Wednesday, will take viewers behind the scenes.

It reveals the film's amnio tank, where humans are reborn as avatars, took five months to build and caused hours of grief for a team of 120 props makers.

Avatar's creative director, Sir Richard Taylor, from Weta Digital, said a prototype of every prop and object used in the film was made - from Na'vi weapons and jewellery to military and medical equipment.

"We had to evolve a whole ecology, a new world," he said. "In reality, there was no need to make anything physically [because the film uses computer-generated imagery, or CGI] but James Cameron was adamant - if it wasn't made physically, how would the digital effects team be able to create it?"

The Oscar and Golden Globe-winning epic Avatar, seen by more than 310 million people worldwide, is the highest-grossing film ever, taking $2.7 billion at the box office.

Avatar producer Jon Landau said the extended collector's edition revealed all the secrets of making Avatar to encourage aspiring film-makers to embrace modern technology and the benefits of CGI.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Picture: The Avatar mosaic made from 4000 Blu-ray discs

Laura Hadland, just weeks after creating a "toast" mosaic from over 9000 pieces of toast has moved on to her next project, an Avatar mosaic that uses 4000 Blu-ray discs.
Hadland says 20th Century Fox commercially printed her the discs (in the colors she needed) and from there the mosaic was completed within a few hours.

The mosaic was a gift to her husband, who was a big fan of the movie.

It was put together on the floor of the London Film Museum.

Avatar is the top selling movie of all time, making $2.8 billion worldwide. Sequels are slated for 2013 and later.

Ending Scene Is Key to ‘Avatar’ Sequels: Pregnant Na’vis

“Avatar” 2 and 3 don’t drop in theaters until December 2014 and 2015, but fans of the first James Cameron film looking for hints as to what to expect may find the answer in one of the never-before-seen final scenes.

As Yahoo! Movies points out, James Cameron may have included the beginning of a new storyline in the ending of “Avatar,” even if it did not get played on cinema screens.

The “Extended Collector’s Edition,” out this month, includes a scene that plays right after the theatrical ending – and in which one Na’vi woman is shown with a belly bump, while it is being suggested that Neytiri will soon be a mom too.

After the scene that shows the Na’vis herding the humans towards their ship, seeing them on their way home, the film immediately cuts to a scene that is clearly only in the first production stages.

“Cut to somewhat jerky animation of blue children gamboling in a pond,” Yahoo! Movies writes. Since the narrator is speaking about rebirth and how the forest will heal, it’s no wonder children are shown.

“The forest will heal. And so will the hearts of the people. New life keeps the energy flowing like the birth of the world,” the voice of the narrator says.

Aside from the use of “birth” there, the images too suggest that there are little Na’vi babies on the way – and that Neytiri too will have one.

“As we hear this, Jake rises from the water clutching a fish, sees Neytiri, his bonded brain-braid soul mate, and places a hand on her tummy,” Yahoo! writes.

The conclusion can’t be but one: Neytiri is pregnant, which means the sequel (and probably threequel, too) will also include subplots with the younger generation.

“It sure does look like it. If she is pregnant, does this mean that that Jakesully’s offspring will be the center of the other two movies in the ‘Avatar’ trilogy? Whatever the answers, Cameron is reportedly keeping his mouth shut on the matter,” the same report notes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How the Amazon Rainforest Made Avatar 2 a Priority

One of the things that didn't get as much attention as it probably should have about the announcement that James Cameron has agreed to make Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 his next projects was that, in order to convince him, 20th Century Fox made a "huge donation" to his environmental green fund. If that doesn't underline Cameron's dedication to the cause, then perhaps A Message To Pandora will. (See all of Techland's Avatar coverage)

Pandora, a 20 minute documentary that appears on the special edition Blu-Ray of Avatar released next Tuesday, is the result of two trips Cameron made to the Amazon rainforest at the invitation of the organization Amazon Watch and documents Cameron's experience meeting the indigenous and riverbank communities whose way of life is threatened by Brazil's $17 million Belo Monte Dam project - A project that would divert the flow of the Xingu River and, in the process, displace more than 20,000 people.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

James Cameron heads back to Pandora

Forget Cleopatra – it's all about Pandora for director James Cameron.

Though he had hoped to direct Angelina Jolie in a 3-D biopic about the Queen of the Nile, Cameron will now have his hands full with not one, but two sequels to his 2009 blockbuster "Avatar," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The first "Avatar," starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, told the story of a greedy corporation trying to rob the moon Pandora and its blue Na'vi people of the rich mineral unobtainium. The 3-D sensation went on to gross $2.8 billion worldwide.

"We'll continue to follow the same people on the same planet," producer Jon Landau revealed at the 3-D Media Markets conference yesterday, adding that the films could venture into new territory. "We might go underwater."

The "Avatar" sequels are set for release in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Exclusive: Jon Landau Talks Avatar 2

With Avatar's extended Collector's Edition soon to hit shelves, Empire grabbed some time with producer Jon Landau, turning up with a dream-machine and a knock-out jab to penetrate his subsconcious and extract info on the sequels. In the end we just asked questions instead, including one or two on those rumours that Avatar 2 will take us to the depths of Pandora's oceans.

"Water will be a part of the movie, but it won’t be all of the movie, " Landau told us. "There’s been a lot of rumours that it’s an underwater movie – it’s not. Just like the Floating Mountains, and the Na’vi's interaction with the mountains, were a part of Avatar, it’ll be the same type of thing."

Read into that what you will, but we can probably file a Gungan-style tribe of subsea frog people under 'unlikely'. Sighs of relief there, then. So will the sequel launch Jake Sully into orbit and on to new planets? No, says Landau. "I think the next movie will stay on Pandora. That’d be my guess. Not all the answers are there yet, but I think we’re happy with Pandora."

Landau also stressed that Avatar 2 won't leave narrative theads hanging, Hallows-style. "The next [film] will kick off where the next last one ended, but, just like Avatar resolved itself and doesn’t feel like a set-up to another movie, you don’t want Avatar 2 to feel like a set up for 3."

So with Cameron and his Lightstorm partner heading back to Pandora for the next few years, where does that leave manga adaptation Battle Angel and freediving drama The Dive? "They’re further-out projects," says Landau. "Neither one has that shooting script yet and both are really worthy projects to make."