Avatar 2 & 3 to use underwater performance capture & HFR

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Avatar producer Jon Landau reveals that Avatar 2 and 3 will break new ground by being the first film to use performance captured actors filmed underwater writes Adrian Pennington from NAB

The next film will also revolve around the original's main characters Jake and Neytiri played by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.
 
“We want to take advantage of technology to make the next two movies even more emotionally engaging and visually tantalising and to wrap up the story arc of our two main characters,” Landau said in a presentation in Las Vegas.
 
“We have kept a team of digital artists on from Avatar in order to test how we can create performance capture underwater. We could simulate water [in computer graphics] but we can't simulate the actor's experience so we are going to capture performance in a tank.”

He added wryly that we can expect filming to start “sometime this century.”
 
“There is a strong likelihood that we will use high frame rates for Avatar. Why? Because it is a better experience for the audience. Nobody should dictate to a filmmaker whether they should make films at 24, 48 or 60fps since the technology now exists and can be presented with the same cinema equipment.”
 
Landau underscored his and director James Cameron's belief that native captured 3D would always be superior to 2D to 3D conversion. “It will never be a comparable choice to native 3D shooting,” he declared. “As good as conversion can get, it's two and three quarters 3D and never true 3D.”
 
As Avatar 2 is being prepared Landau and Cameron are exploring new immersive sound systems such as Dolby Atmos at the facility of production outfit Lighystorm.
 
“Our machine room on the next Avatar looks like a NASA machine room with media stored on two continents for protection.”
 
Stories that could be conceived a few years ago could not be realised because the technology did not exist. Now, if someone can dream it, someone can find a way to realise it. But let's not to lose sight of why people go to the movies. They don't watch for technology they watch because they make an emotional connection to a story.”
 
He added: “3D is an evolutionary not revolutionary and it will take time to come to market. But look at Russia and China where the 3D screens market is phenomenal. In emerging markets communities are going to theatres for the first time and are experiencing film in 3D – that's what they think of as a cinema experience. To show them a 2D presentation is a step back from them.”
 
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“When I go to watch a 3D movie I want to forget about it being in 3D – that should be the goal,” he said.
 
While Cameron and Landau are advocating higher frame rates and higher dynamic range (colour and light range) and higher resolutions for films like Avatar there is no reason he said why this should suspend audience disbelief by seeing pictures that look as if they place you next to the camera.
 
“We all go the theatre and suspend our disbelief even while we are see live actors performing on stage. Perhaps the role of the director working at high frame rates and higher resolutions will have to evolve to be more like that of a stage director.”
 
Landau also commented that Peter Jackson should not be criticised for using HFR on The Hobbit.
 
“Audiences went to The Hobbit expecting the same tone as the Lord of the Rings films but The Hobbit is a different film with a different story and a different tone and Peter Jackson made absolutley the right creative choice [in shooting 48fps] for him and should be respected for that.”

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