Cutting-edge 3D camera system on James Cameron film, "Avatar"?

Any guesses on what this new camera system does?

The full article is at, and you can also see the teaser poster and the IMDb page.

Hmmm. Interesting. Blending motion capture and live action in the same shot…

My guess is that using the 3D camera and some software post-processing he can generate a 3D computer model of the scene and people. So he can insert computer-generated characters and objects with less difficulty. That’s what I wanted to invent.

Ordinarily, motion capture is done using performers in a special suit with markers on their body, which you then have to apply to a digital model of the character which has been generated separately.

I suspect that Cameron may have invented a way to do both of these things at the same time, without the need for the suit with markers, and without the need for applying a model onto a skeleton; the result being actual full body 3D versions of the characters as recorded live on set.

Recording the entire scene as live 3D information means they can then be inserted into any scene using any camera angle.

That’s probably what Yeeter is imagining too.

If it’s not actually that, it probably is at least a step or two closer to that than has been achieved before.

But how will this filter down to me as the viewer? Will the effects look more realistic? Less like CGI? What’s in it for me?

Is the end result in 3D? It could be a very clever combination of a motion-capture system and a 3D camera.

What does the title mean? Is this a movie about a Second Life character?

If your scene is in 3D you will have more flexibility with camera angle/movement. It will take less work to set up the scene so that you can insert computer generated actors and objects. Currently they have to measure distance from the camera, to the actor and any object the CGI object will interact with.

Kind of related: One team with an entry for the DARPA Urban Challenge are using a “Bumblebee” stereo camera to detect obstacles in the path of their driverless vehicle.

It’s a live action version of a very popular faux-anime cartoon called “Avatar the Air Bender.”

I think in the end, this benefits the filmmaker, who can stage shots specifically during production, rather than waiting until post-production to insert effects. I’m on board with the posters who’ve surmised this new camera system (called “Fusion”) will allow the director to see an instant rendered mockup of the scene with rough representations of all effects before it is even filmed. Knowing Cameron, he’s going to use this system to tremendous advantage. He is a visionary with an excellent sense of what his scenes will look like before he films a single frame, and this camera system has been his pet project for more than a decade. I can imagine it will deliver incredible results while keeping the film’s budget in check, thereby moving the benchmark for special effects even higher by delivering more bang for the buck. Cameron’s dream has been to create artificial characters on a computer whose fidelity is virtually imperceptible from real characters. The great thing is that despite the fact he has a reputation for raising the effects benchmark throughout his career, he also manages to use just enough effects in his films to tell a story without making it exclusively into a special effects showcase.

This is going to be a big film … his first big sci-fi since T2, and an opus of all the technologies he’s been developing since then. It’s basically shrouded in secrecy, and I hope it stays that way. Rumors suggest most of the film is already shot and it’s basically in the post-production and editing stage for the next year or so. I can’t wait to see some promo trailer footage. I’m hoping we’ll get a glimpse this holday season …

Nope, that’s a different project altogether- last I checked, M. Night Shamalan was signed to that one.

Ha, yes. In writing the OP I forgot to ask the question I really wanted to ask! I was reading and rereading the article and parts of it just wouldn’t absorb, so I’m glad for the replies in this thread (it does sound like the Doper speculations are on the right track).

I can try to look for it, if nobody can think of it from the top of his head. I remember reading about a facial motion capture system that was basically UV glitter painted on the actor’s face. It meant hundreds of markers instead of just a handful.

I can see something similar being used over the whole scene to bring a full reference of all the props and items on the scene and how to best incorporate them in the CGI environment.

I believe you’ll actually view the movie in 3D.

Seems to me, it could be either way. There does seem to be a recent push to get 3D viewing into people’s homes now. Mitsubishi’s latest attempt for example.

Interesting that you say this, then in the very next paragraph mention T2. I for one did think that that was mostly just a special effects showcase.

I seem to recall Cameron saying a few years ago that part of his motivation for this was to save the movie theater as a source of entertainment - to give it a way of presenting a movie experience that you can’t easily get in your home. That would tend to make me believe he’s got some multi-camera/multi-projector 3D reproduction technology that will be much better than what’s been available in the past, but which requires some expensive or specialized equipment to reproduce. Or perhaps it relies on the wide viewing angle of a large theater screen and won’t translate well to television displays or something.

I was trying to suggest Cameron has a unique talent for pacing effects sequences within the narrative, flowing transparently with the action. So many movies today utilize effects just for the sake of doing so … Transformers, King Kong, LOTR, Independence Day, or the Star Wars prequels are special effects showcases … endless barrages of computer-generated imagery which drown out the actual photography. Nothing wrong with that, and it’s probably the direction filmmaking is headed now, but I still think Cameron will find a special balance with Avatar that will make it unique. His philosophy has always been that effects are there to help tell a story, not to become the story.

I just can’t see this…have you never seen an action movie before?

I’ve been following this since before Titanic. Jim and his brother Mike have developed several cutting edge camera systems over the years. This one is not the 3D HD camera that Cameron developed, it’s being shot in a similar fashion to The Polar Express using Cameron-created industry terms “pre-capture” and “performance capture” but will be projected using new 3D technology co developed by Cameron and Weta Digital (Cameron co founded Digital Domain and later left the company).

Cameron is quoted in describing the technology, “With performance capture, you’re capturing exactly what the actor does and translating it to the CG character without the interpretation of animators,” he says. “So it’s not performance by committee, it’s performance by the actor. I’m an absolute stickler about this, and I wanted to make a director-centric performance capture process. We’ve spent literally since August of last year creating this and now we’re ready to go.”

The “released” synopsis of the film describes, “Jake, a paraplegic war veteran is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.”

For all of the hype surrounding “Project 880” (Avatar was first discussed before Titanic and was supposed to be one of Cameron’s projects after Spiderman) Avatar is really just a stepping stone film, produced not only to introduce the new camera system and tell a great story, but it is also serving as a test bed for the new technology. If it works, Cameron is going full ahead with his massive project Battle Angel Alita, which is supposed to really push the industry into a totally new area. Just like with Avatar, the actor performs for the pre-capture camera completely covered in a glitter-like material that serves a similar purpose to motion capture dots used in most all modern day CG film sets. The primary difference is that there are thousands of these markers all over the body of the actor rather than the handful normally used, thus capturing every nuance of the actor and translating it to CGI. Think of Gollum-style motion capture times thousands.

I wonder if a similar technique was used for Beowulf