Rob Powers Talks VAD and More Avatar
With Avatar's Blu-ray and DVD release tomorrow from Twentieth Century Fox Home Ent., it's an opportune time to catch up with Rob Powers. He created and supervised the Virtual Art Department (VAD) for Avatar, and was part of the primary team that pioneered the new director-centric approach for shooting within a virtual, non-linear workspace. Powers and the VAD team used NewTek LightWave 3D as the main tool for developing the environmental assets and Powers recently joined NewTek as director of Entertainment and Media Development and discussed the creation and significance of VAD.
Bill Desowitz: Tell me about the crucial role of the Virtual Art Department on Avatar.
Rob Powers: In creating the Virtual Art Department for this film, I saw that this technology, which Jim [Cameron] was able to push in a way that really leverages creativity, was also instrumental in the design. It was so immensely useful to the art department's production designers and art directors. For example, I was able to do a really quick mock up of the inside of Hometree, then go in there with an art director and walk around with a virtual camera, find an angle that he liked and grab it to image from a real world camera lens. That's the real catch here: it was basically taking film production into consideration in the design process. And we did hundreds of painting variations. So it actually fed the design of the Hometree and then we eventually ended up with a set that Jim was able to walk through. And art direction and production design was totally a part of it because we could go on virtual location scouts for Jim to go shoot on things and that was where these environments were created in this work space. So anything could be selected, anything could be moved or replaced. I worked really hard in the Virtual Art Department to organize things so that we could come up with a system that, if Jim didn't like a certain plant in an environment, he could swap it out with any plant in our library that he chose.
BD: What was something you uniquely created in VAD?