VFX Oscar Bakeoff 2010: Seeing is Believing
When the biggest bakeoff buzz last night was whether or not James Cameron was going to make an appearance, you knew it was destined to be Avatar's night. Which it was -- and Cameron did show up for the reception at Kate Mantilini and hung around for the entire bakeoff. In fact, I walked with Cameron to the Academy. He was still aglow about the phenomenal box office performance and Golden Globes victory, but he's still not taking anything for granted. "We still have to get nominated," he cautioned.
I asked him about a potential sequel staying on Pandora or exploring another moon, and he had nothing new to report. Yet he proclaimed that "the visual effects are great but the most important thing is that it touches people here [pointing to his heart]." And he really wished that the late Stan Winston could've seen it.
Meanwhile, many agreed that the work this past year was especially outstanding. Weta Digital may have raised the industry bar, of course, but the stylistic diversity and overall execution on display in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Star Trek, District 9, Terminator Salvation, 2012 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen signal a turning point of sorts.
Avatar's Joe Letteri said as much when we chatted beforehand: "It's interesting because a lot of it comes down to style, integration, how it works with the film these days because the work is pretty uniformly good. Everyone has a lot of stuff figured out and it's hard to fault the work that people are doing."
Tim Burke kicked off the supervisor-led presentations with his Potter intro (which relied on Double Negative, MPC, ILM, Rising Sun and Cinesite to provide most of the work): There's actually over an hour-and-a-half of total screen time visual effects, which covers a huge range of techniques from digital set extensions, full virtual environments, CG characters, full screen digital doubles, lots and lots of different effects animations…fire, smoke, rain, clouds, etc., etc…We tried a bit more dynamic Quidditch [using] a lot of digital doubles to free the camera up and full CG environments so that we can fly around at [high] speed and really create some energy for the sequence… and it culminates with a huge firestorm, which, again, is created as a CG simulation."