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Cinema Pioneers: James Cameron

Avatar, 20th Century Fox

My purest side wretches to give James Cameron credit for anything. However, we must pay Mr. Cameron his due.  Because of his pioneering work in motion capture work, photographic work has advanced by leaps and bounds. What was once deemed impossible has now become the norm due to Cameron’s work in the mid-90s on films such as Titanic.  Cameron would advance what he calls “performance capture.” His efforts most of all would pay dividends down the line with his future opus Avatar.

In an interview with the website Motion Capture Society, Cameron talked about the lead up to Avatar  –

We have greatly enhanced the size of the performance-capture stage, which we call The Volume, to six times the size previously used. And we have incorporated a real-time virtual camera, which allows me to direct [computer-generated] scenes as I would live-action scenes. I can see my actors performing as their characters, in real-time, and I can move my camera to adjust to their performances.

In addition, we have pioneered facial performance capture, in conjunction with our visual effects partner, Weta Digital. This technique eliminates hours in the makeup chair, and various other discomforts, for the actors. Previously, actors needed to have hundreds of tiny spherical markers glued to their faces, and they couldn’t touch their own faces throughout the shooting day as a result. With the new system, a lightweight head-rig can be donned minutes before shooting.

Consequently, filmmakers are able to create wondrous new characters. Cameron has unleashed the directors ability to dream big with his innovations. In spite of criticisms for his style, Cameron’s films always perform well. He dominates the top list of earners.

“You have to put the narrative first. The reality is no matter how many (3-D) screens we get, you are still going to have a large number of people — possibly the majority of people — who see the film in a 2-D environment.”

James Cameron has been a driving force in computer ingratiation with  film. He has taken it from an unwieldy, rudimentary tool and made it a viable tool. Most of all, the director has proved that realm is financially viable.

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