Things are going well on Avatar, or at least as well as can be expected on such a ridiculously complex project. We've wrapped principal, and most of the live action portion of the movie is already cut. It's starting to look and sound like a movie. I'm ecstatic with the performances and the look. The cast chemistry worked out perfectly.
"I'm in New Zealand right now, working on effects, while Steve Quale shoots some second unit. We've worked together a lot (he did the engine room scenes on Titanic, plus co-directed Aliens of the Deep with me) and he's the only guy I trust to shoot stuff for me, especially in 3D. We still have a little performance capture work to do with Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in March, when we get her back from Star Trek (she's Uhura -- but of course you already knew that.) And we have a couple of days with Stephen Lang in April or May, to shoot his character's last scene, which is so technically difficult it will take us until then to figure out how to do it.
You can see how spread out the schedule is -- it's just the nature of this type of CG animation/live action hybrid. Most of my time now is spent editing, because on this type of film you edit every CG scene twice -- once to edit the raw performance capture, before it goes to virtual camera, and then again when you have the virtual camera shots, you do the final edit of the scene. It's very complex and taxing, but the result is amazing. The Weta animators are ON FIRE, and seeing the world and the creatures come to life is what keeps us going. There's a spirit on this film, an esprit de corps amongst the virtual team, that comes from knowing we're doing something absolutely groundbreaking. It's why people still have good morale after working on this thing for two years or more. And we still have more than a year and a half to go. I don't know if this will be a good film, great film, awful film, but I can say with absolute certainty that you will see stuff you've never imagined, and that the process of making this film will generate a lot of interest within the technical side of the biz. When I edit with some of our early stuff, "shot" using our virtual camera system over a year and half ago, it already looks laughably crude. Our process has evolved so much, just within the making of this one movie. Of course the final standard of photoreal animation will be consistent throughout the film, because it all gets rendered in a big frenzy next year.
It's all very exciting to be doing, and that (usually) compensates for the grind of the seven day weeks. Well, no rest for the weary. Gotta get to the cutting room. Back to Pandora.
Avatar is in post-production in New Zealand and the film is currently set for a December 18, 2009 release.