Wow! Just came back from the Autodesk 2010 Blockbuster Tour which had Mohen Leo from ILM talking about Iron man 2, plus Nolan Murtha from Lightstorm Entertainment, and Shawn Dunn from Weta Digital who both worked on Avatar. Mohen Leo showed breakdowns of some shots from Ironman 2. What was esp. interesting was seeing how much CG work was done when it came to the suits, which turn out to be almost entirely done in post. I particular liked the combination of practical sets and use of traditional shooting styles and how it was used within the vfx pipeline. Helicopter shots where used for reference, camera movement and a background plates. For me there wasn’t any huge surprises in the Ironman post production however that all changed when the show focused in on Avatar.
Normally when it comes to feature films I can figure out whats real and whats not, however when I saw Avatar I had no idea what was a practical set and what was done in post. Well, turns out the humans where real (well mostly) and a few objects that they interact with where too, but basically 90% of the film was digital. Nolan Murtha kicked off showing how Avatar was shot. There was several times throughout the night that I realized that my mouth was wide open, and yes even when it came to how they shot it. Everything is motion tracked, and I mean everything! The actors had small cameras fitted to there heads (think reality TV helmet cam) these record all the facial expressions. Of course the body movement was tracked as they jumped around a very basic set (padded objects, climbing frames, etc) and it was shot with stereo rigged cameras (that were tracked too). Now that may not sound to unusual however in realtime the camera monitors showed pandora and it’s inhabitants in a console game like form. Was truly impressive.
Shawn Dunn from Weta Digital explained how 3D data flowed from Nolans Team to the Weta team who then produced the imagery we are now all familiar with. Shawn started off with a list of facts and figures like 200 hours of cpu time per frame to do final renders, and that they had 4800 computers in the render farm making up a total of 38,000 cores (and heres me getting excited with my 16 cores). I really wished I could remember all the numbers (I’m sure you’ll find a few if you google enough). We then saw a few breakdowns of some familiar shots from the film. Showing how detail was slowly added bit by bit. We also heard a couple interesting stories, esp when it came to James Camron cameras (don’t mess with them). I wasn’t planing on writing this much but I’ll stop myself here. If your in Sydney I believe the Tour is there on Tomorrow, well worth it. I can’t believe they pulled this movie off, absolutely incredible.