I watched Avatar in IMAX 3D, adding my above-average share to its 2+ billion record box office, after I read half of the Cinefex article covering it. Here are some quotes NOT about the technical details but about the revolutionary and illuminary visions.
A 4-second Shot Takes 50TB
This is from another article on 2012 in the same issue about the shot of an aircraft carrier hitting the White House. It just shows the incredible scale of current CG technology.
Scanline keyframe animated the aircraft carrier to slowly roll in the crest of the wave, then added secondary animation, including tiny aircraft skidding across the deck. A dynamic fluid simulation created a film of water across the surface of the ship. “One of the hardest things in CG water is to make surfaces look wet,” noted (Scanline visual effects supervisor Stephen) Trojansky. “If you render little particles falling over a surface, it still looks dry. Instead, we simulated sheets of water contacting the ship. Those simulations were done at such a high level, interacting with every little airplane wheel and curve on the deck, they filled 50 terabytes of space.“
Reinvent the Wheel When You Should
Man am I in the wrong industry. This is a coder’s dream come true: do things in the right way from first principles. BTW I think the Ring Trilogy’s greatest legacy is not the movies themselves, but the Weta companies. They were founded before the Rings, but the Rings elevated them to truly world-leading FX shops. And almost every Cinefex article I read afterwards mentions the use of Massive.
“To figure out how we were going to light and render these very big, complex shots, ” explained (Weta Digital visual effects supervisor–now director–Joe) Letteri, “we went back to ground zero and questioned everything we had ever done. A lot of techniques that are used in computer graphics go back 20, 25 years. They were developed in the days when computers didn’t have early the speed and power that they have today; and so there were a lot of shortcuts taken. Back then, you could never render something as big as what we were rendering for this show. Now that we could do that, what was the best way? Was it still appropriate to use these old ideas? We reexamined every technique we’d ever used. If it held up, great; if it didn’t, we came up with something new.” …
“The goal of everyone over the years has been to make shots look real,” stated Letteri. “But we decided to bite the bullet and make them real, to actually calculate the reality.” (The example is CG character movements are driven by real muscles, fat and tissue, instead of fake muscles “like balloons under the skin that move based on joint movement” and so forth.)
You Can Do Anything You Want, but You Don’t
This one is from James Cameron at the end of the article, showing how far CG has come, and how far he is ahead of everyone else.
“…when you’ve got all these possibilities, when you can do any kind of action imaginable, …you have to be very disciplined. Applying rigor and discipline to the process has been the biggest challenge, in fact. Early on, we came up with the principle of denying ourselves infinite possibility–which sounds wrong. You’d think you’d want to embrace the infinite possibility; but you don’t because you’ll never get there. Ever. We stood by the principle of making a creative decision in the moment, and never second-guessing it. And just by making that decision, we had eliminated possibility. Every single day was about eliminating possibility, in face.”