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The technology behind James Cameron’s 3D film – Avatar

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“Avatar”, the costliest ever produced film written and directed by James Cameron has been released world wide.  As the title denotes it is a a “3-D representation of a real person in a virtualized world “. A number of reviews on this film are already  available on tabloids  blogs and movie review sites. Avatar has already termed as a must see movie. In this juncture it is interesting to go through the technology behind this great movie.

  • The film is released in 2D, 3D and IMax 3D (Selected theaters only). 2D and 3D are familiar words but what is IMAx 3D? Imax means Image MAXimum which is  a production standard developed by Canada’s IMax Corporation. A standard IMAX screen is 22 meters (72 ft) wide and 16.1 meters (53 ft) high, but can vary.The world’s largest cinema screen and IMAX screen is the LG IMAX theater in Darling Harbor, Sydney. It is 29.42m (approximately 8 stories) high by 35.73m wide — covering an area of more than 1,015 square metres. Only a few hundred IMAX theaters are in world wide. About 50% of IMAX theaters are located in US. To know more about IMAX visit Official IMAX site.
  • The old-fashioned 3D cinematography – the sort where your glasses had red and green coloured lenses – a pair of closely-aligned images with different tints gave the impression of depth by fooling the eyes. Avatar takes things a step further by using both computer generated 3D imagery and advanced stereoscopic filming methods to create the illusion of reality.
  • The main technology used in this film is “Motion capture animation” technology which creates computerized images from real human action. Motion capture for computer character animation involves the mapping of human motion onto the motion of a computer character. The mapping can be direct, such as human arm motion controlling a character’s arm motion, or indirect, such as human hand and finger patterns controlling a character’s skin color or emotional state.
  • For this Cameron, used a self developed advanced filming rig consists of a number of stereoscopic cameras that each use a pair of lenses built to mimic human eyes – positioned close together and able to move a little in order to focus on objects that are nearby or far away. That allows the cinematographer to capture two images simultaneously, which align perfectly with and provide the illusion of depth.
  • The scenes were filmed using a “virtual” camera and a real time computer manipulated 3D views were recorded.
  • The viewing part at theater is still traditional as in the case of  a typical 3D movie, which requires but nothing more to disappoint. It is a vast improvement on the sometimes headache-inducing techniques that relied on cardboard cutout glasses with red and green lenses and rose and fell in popularity in the 1950s.
  • But instead of old fashioned coloured lenses, modern 3D films require audiences to wear polarised glasses – where each lens lets through a slightly different kind of light. This means that your left eye and right eye can see different images shown simultaneously on the screen – and not only are they less headache inducing than in the past,they look much more like ordinary specs too.

Video on the animation techniques used in Avatar

Click here for an interesting Review on Avatar

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