Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan Earthquake Could Hurt 'Avatar 2' and James Cameron's Epic Underwater Dive

As Japan struggles to recover from this month's devastating earthquake and tsunami, the tragic natural disaster is casting another Hollywood production into jeopardy. Last week we reported that Guillermo Del Toro's monster movie 'Pacific Rim' could be facing rewrites to eliminate scenes of Japan being devastated by giant monsters. Now comes today's news that the aftereffects of the 9.0 magnitude quake could delay James Cameron's 'Avatar 2.'

Coming Attractions got the exclusive scoop from a trusted source who says that Cameron's well-documented plans to build a submersible to take him to the bottom of the Mariana Trench are now in danger. The filmmaker planned to study lifeforms in the deepest part of the ocean for inspiration for creatures in the sequel to the highest grossing film of all-time, and to shoot 3D footage for use in the film.

Those plans are now being reconsidered. The mammoth earthquake that shook the region (and moved the coast of Japan a whopping eight feet) has undoubtedly changed the landscape beneath the sea, but more importantly, aftershocks are still happening – and could continue for several years.

CA's source says those potential aftershocks are what could derail Cameron's plans – which is expensive bad news for the filmmaker, who had commissioned an Australian team to build a state-of-the-art submersible that could get him to the Challenger Deep safely. At 36,000 feet, it's the deepest spot on the planet. The submersible is already halfway to completion.

The problem is that with the threat of aftershocks and the inherent danger of traveling to those depths in the first place (it's a mile deeper than Everest is high, and the pressure is eight tonnes per square inch) there's not likely a liability insurer who will take on the risk. No liability insurance? No trip to the depths of the Trench.

If that turns out to be the case, Cameron will be forced to come up with a new way to explore Pandora's oceans in 'Avatar 2' – or he could just wait a decade until things have calmed down beneath the sea and then go and get his footage. We wouldn't be surprised if the latter path was the one he chose...

Kidding aside, what do you guys think? With the advent of computer technology, it seems like Cameron could easily create an underwater world without risking his life traveling to the depths of the ocean floor. Would you rather he just do that or would you prefer to wait for the next film so that he can implement that footage into his feature even if it means 'Avatar 2' is delayed for several years? Weigh the options in our comment section.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Avatar director James Cameron to take on Japan tsunamis

Oscar winner is building a submarine to explore the world's deepest underwater trench… that and the Avatar sequels

Critically-acclaimed director James Cameron talked about the difficulties he faced in technically developing his mastermind film, ‘Avatar’, while looking the future of technology across all mediums and how it could one day even buffer the devastation that Japan currently, and Indonesia earlier, faced in wake of the earthquake and the corresponding Tsunami.

In a candid chat with James Murdoch, CEO and Chairman of News Corporation, Asia and Europe, at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Cameron – who is also a deep-sea explorer – revealed that he is currently mounting a submarine expedition to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, which should see him set off one year from now.

“We are in the process of building submarine to go to the Mariana trench, which is around 11,000 metres under water,” said Cameron.

“The idea is to understand what is happening down there, to get data and conduct seismic surveys there so we can avoid another Indonesia and Japan.”

Cameron stressed on the urgent need of technology in our daily lives, from deep sea exploration to the big screen.

“Creating ‘Avatar’ starting me thing from a technological point of view,” he said. “I was not just a filmmaker but the CEO of Digital Domain and the company’s biggest client. What I wanted was a quantum leap forward but I was told it was too early to conceptualize my ideas. So I had to box the idea away and wait for 10 years.”

“’Avatar’s’ 3D technological advancement took painstaking work, which including Cameron and his team conceptualizing a special face camera that could capture every nuance of every expression.

The director explained: “The audience had to be moved by the characters to ensure its success, not by just great visual vistas but rather tight face close-ups. We had to capture every finer nuance.

“We knew how to capture everybody performance, but we had no idea how to capture every facial performance. So we mounted a tiny camera onto their face and that recorded their every expression.”

The ‘Titanic’ director stated it took two years to write the software that could take that raw data set and turn it into reality.

3D vision

Cameron’s use of 3D technology in ‘Avatar’ has redefined how Hollywood now perceives this form of cinema.

“The argument in a filmmaking process that wants to utilise 3D technology has always been, do we film it in 3D or do we do bear the cost in post-production,” he explained. “It is a cost saving exercise of course, but I know that I prefer shooting in 3D.

“In fact, ticket sales are flattening, but if studios are making more money, then it is because we are charging tickets at a premium for 3D technology. People want the big screen experience and they want those extra effects and are willing to pay for it.”

The most common problems facing filmmakers who utilise 3D technology is maintaining that fine balance between storytelling and ensuring the visual effects don’t overcome the plot.

Cameron agreed, saying: “Because I have explored both storytelling and technological advancements throughout my career, my challenge has always been to stay closer to the heart of the character. And because I write my own stories, I know what my characters are feeling before I start thinking camerawork.”

He went on to say: “What the audience wants is a fresh story and the best films work on your emotions. ‘Avatar’ pushed on technology that would cannabilise the big screen market. And it had me go on a 10-year odyssey to fight with filmmakers.”

Cameron revealed that when digital cinema opened, people thought it would die out but it took 3D as a catalyst to bring it to the stage it is.

“Best described, ‘Avatar’ was like jumping out of an airplane and knitting the parachute on the way down,” he laughed. “We would be in middle of production day and we would ground to a halt because the equipment wouldn’t work.

“But today we can say that people will go to school and look in a manual and know how to do things because we solved it.”

So what’s next, one wonders and Cameron doesn’t shy away from answering it: “People often ask me, is 4D the next thing. And I always say, we need to consolidate 3D first. That’s the big step,” he concluded.

Cameron shot to fame in 1984, when ‘The Terminator’ hit the screens for a seemingly short one-week run but ended up collecting $78m at the global box office.

Since, there was no looking back for the Canadian director/writer/producer, who went on to create the cult hit ‘Aliens’ with Sigourney Weaver in 1986, followed by ‘The Abyss’ three years later and ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ in 1991.

But it was the record-breaking ‘Titanic’ in 1994 that really turned Cameron into a household name, sweeping almost all the Academy and Golden Globe awards that year and creating box office history with the film becoming the highest grosser of all time, earning $1.8 billion globally according to industry records.

That record was broken in 2010 when Cameron’s 3D masterpiece, ‘Avatar’, which was the closing film of the Dubai International Film Festival the previous year, garnered over $2.7bn at the global box office.

In fact, it was ‘Avatar’s’ phenomenal success that saw ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine name him Hollywood’s top Hollywood earner earlier this month, with estimated 2010 earnings of $257m.

Cameron is reportedly now involved in the pre-production of ‘Avatar’ parts two and three, which will reportedly be followed by ‘Battle Angel’, but no details of the last project have emerged.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Avatar Just Saved Pandora In Brazil

James Cameron might have just saved a real-life Pandora on Friday, as a Brazilian judge ruled to save thousands of rainforest acres from one of the world's largest dam proposals.

After several environmental concerns, construction of the Belo Monte Dam was halted by a Brazilian judge on Friday. With plans on the dam being the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world, it was costing the Brazilian government approximately 15 billion dollars in construction costs. The first phase of the 11,000 mega-watt dam was intended to have been completed in 2015. Since the beginning of the project, the dam has caused much uproar from many environmental organizations, even being criticized by the Catholic Church.

As Brazil's population and economy grows, so does its need for a reliable source of electricity. Blackouts in the past have signified a growing energy problem in the country, which was supposed to have been solved with the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. Having been chosen to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, energy demands have been on the forefront of concerns in Brazil.

In the rainy months, the dam would have produced 11,000 megawatts of energy, equaling that of approximately seven coal plants. However, during the rainy months, production would have decreased to about 10% of that total. The famed 11,000 megawatt dam would, in actuality, only produce about 6,000 megawatts on average , annually. While this does create a much-needed clean energy source, the cost to construct it - 15 billion dollars - and the effect on the rainforest does not quite compare to the proposed energy benefits.

In court rulings on Friday, construction was halted and funds were immediately cut off from the project, as a Brazilian federal judge determined that environmental requirements previously set had not been met. These requirements were set in an effort to minimize the impact on the surrounding tropical rainforest and the people of the area. Avatar director, James Cameron, along with Sting and Sigourney Weaver, has become front-line protesters against the construction of the Belo Monte Dam by moving to the Amazonian rainforest to live among the indigenous people. Aside from adding his voice to the protests against the building of the dam, Cameron helps to bring global awareness to the cause, a real-life Avatar.

Halting construction on this project will most likely slow the acceleration of the Brazilian economy. The private companies involved, including Odebrecht, Camargo Correa, and Andrade Gutierrez. Alstom, Andritz, Voith Hydro, and Impsa will likely see negative effects in their earnings, depending on the length of the suspension and the size of this project in comparison to their overall profits.