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.

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