Start A Fansite!

Avoiding "Creepiness" Was Avatar's Biggest Challenge

The previously tight-lipped director of Avatar, James Cameron, discusses the film's effects and explains the "uncanny valley."
James Cameron introduced footage of his new 3-D sci-fi film, Avatar, at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and the audience was amazed by the incredible photorealistic 3-D CGI landscapses and, in particular, the Navi, blue-furred, feline-esque denizens of the planet Pandora. In a recent interview, Cameron admitted that creating realistic characters was the "biggest challenge of the film."

"That was the biggest challenge of the film. No matter how much art and technology we threw at this thing, if it wasn’t in the eyes of the characters – if you didn’t see a soul there – it would just be a big clanking machine. And I think that’s what people were responding to with...well, I don’t want to throw a particular movie under the bus here, but let’s just say we’ve seen examples of motion-capture not quite getting it. It’s called the uncanny valley. We’ve seen movies never quite get out of the uncanny valley. That’s a reference to a negative effect that is created when something approaches human (in appearance) but isn’t quite there, it creates this creepiness.

Our goal right from the get-go is that we had to get over the uncanny valley. These characters have to be real, they have to be alive. And what the actors do has to come through 100%.

We didn’t want to get in and come back and muck around with a lot of key-framing where we would be animating over what the actors did. Our goal was a pure translation of the actors’ performance, at least as much as the physiology of that character allowed. The actors can’t act the tail, the actors can’t ears, so there is a layer of animation on top of what they are doing. But if I showed you the reference video track of what Zoe (Saldana) and Sam (Worthington) did, I think you’d be astonished at how closely it maps to the final performance that you see. I think it’s one-to-one. You know, and, we expected that maybe we’d get to 90%, maybe 95%, but I don’t think we dreamed that we’d get to 100%. But we did. There’s absolutely no diminishment."

Cameron is offering the public a free screening of 16 minutes of Avatar on August 21 at 101 IMAX theaters in the United States and Canada. The event is dubbed "Avatar Day" and will feature an introduction by Cameron and new footage not shown at SDCC.

Avatar opens December 18th!
1 Yes
0 No
Brent Sprecher

DISCLAIMER: This posting was submitted by a user of the site not from Earth's Mightiest editorial staff. All users have acknowledged and agreed that the submission of their content is in compliance with our Terms of Use. For removal of copyrighted material, please contact us HERE.