The Oscars: Letteri Talks Avatar
Now that it's toppled Titanic at the box office and has become a best picture Oscar contender, Avatar is the talk of the industry. Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for Weta Digital, kicks off our VFX Oscar coverage with his analysis,
Bill Desowitz: Congratulations again on the phenomenal success of Avatar.
Joe Letteri: Thanks, it's been great.
BD: I'm curious what kinds of conversations you've been having with colleagues.
JL: Most of it has been pretty positive and I think what people like is the immersive nature of it: almost a Wizard of Oz quality. Once you take off with the Jake, and you go into the world, you're just kind of there. And people are finding it believable and likable. They really enjoy their visit to Pandora: they want to stay there and see more of it. They understand the emotions between Jake and Neytiri. Obviously, that's what we put a lot of our focus on and there's certainly a magical quality to parts of the jungle and other parts of the environment that people are responding to. So it feels like people are taking it in the spirit that it was meant to be, which is nice.
BD: Are people asking how they could apply some of the techniques to their upcoming projects?
JL: Yes, people are definitely interested in the technology and how that relates to other ways of doing very similar things. So it really exists on a spectrum of what you're trying to do with your film, and how much live action vs. digital there would be. There's obviously one more bag of techniques that you can bring to that. You know, the more you're going to be in a realm where a scene is created mostly digital or have large digital components, the more you can bring that technology to bear on those. Obviously you don't need to pull that out for every shot and every scene, but it's there now if you need it.
JL: Exactly. More and more directors are doing more and more work with effects and not all of them have the experience, so they are looking for an easy way to step into it and understand what's going on. And this definitely gives you that.
BD: Are people beginning to understand more about the role of the animation and the significance of the performance capture?