In his welcome to the press, for Avatar Global Media Day James Cameron said that he felt the the experience of the day was a great opportunity “whether you are fans of the film or not, to get behind the curtain behind some processes that are really revolutionizing how films are being made.”
I couldn’t agree more, and this, is in essence, is the reason that I feel that this Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is more than worth it for people who are genuinely passionate about, and interested in the filmmaking process.
The 3 disk set includes the following:
- 3 versions of the film.
- An alternate opening depicting life on Earth.
- Capturing Avatar a documentary on the making of the film (see more about that by going HERE) as well as several other support pieces on the filmmaking process itself.
- 45 minutes of deleted scenes.
- An “Interactive Scene Deconstruction” option, in which viewers can experience the various stages of production through 3 different viewing modes, and more.
The opportunity to delve into the technological processes involved in the making of this film is an absolute treat for film lovers, as Cameron says, “whether you are a fan of this film or not.” If you want to read more about my tour behind the scenes of Avatar, the be sure to READ THIS.
THE NEW FOOTAGE & SCENE CONSTRUCTION
The footage of life on Earth adds a whole new layer to the film, it gives a sense of desolation, of overpopulation and suffocation. A sense of consequence, a reason for the plunder of Pandora, and enhances the feeling of freedom that comes later for the character of Jake (Sam Worthington).
One of the greatest features for film fans is the “Interactive Scene Deconstruction”, in which the viewer is able to switch between three different levels in the production process, for over sixty minutes of footage. The first is the reference level, showing the record of the actors performances; the second is the template level, which is akin to what you would see in the virtual camera; and the third, is the final, finished shot.
This film went through two full editing processes, once with the reference material, the record of the actors performances, and then again when the actual shots were created.
This is how Cameron describes the process:
When you capture the performances, you make a performance cut; but that cut is not frame accurate to what the final cut will be because it is not made with true images. It is only made with reference camera images, and their job is just to make sure that we have a good record of whats happening facially for the actors. Then we take those reference camera images and we start to imagine what the shots might be.
Maybe as much a year after we’ve captured the scene with the actors, I would go back and work with the virtual camera have them bring all these ghosts back to life. I would then create the actual shots; maybe a slow creeping move in close up, or a high crane shot…
That’s the first moment that they (the editors) have essentially dailies or shots to cut with. They would sit on the stage and begin to assemble the scene in real time as I was doing the virtual cameras. And because we didn’t have actors, make-up, wardrobe, sets, sun going down, all of those pressures, I could actually stop shooting and walk over, look at the cut, work with them for awhile, and then go back up, maybe see an angle that might improve the cutting pattern, and go back out to shoot.
This feature gives you a real sense of how these processes blend together to create the final product; it is, as Cameron rightly states,“geek heaven.”
To get s sense of some of these features, take a look at the trailer for the Collector’s Edition here:
EXPLORING THE AVATAR PHENOMENON
Avatar can often be a point of contention amongst film fans. There are those who stand behind the film as powerfully moving, and yes, technologically revolutionary; then there are those who could not move past the archetypal nature of the story, and some of the film’s flaws.
My personal taste in film varies greatly. I love many different kinds of films, for many different reasons. When it comes down to absolute favorites, I tend to lean more towards what many might consider “art-house”, though they may be visually expansive or even epic in scale.
Having said that, I personally loved Avatar. I don’t think it was without flaws, but I don’t think many things are without flaws. I was completely enchanted by the immersive experience of the film. I felt like I had seen a movie, taken a ride, and lived a bit of a fantasy and hero’s journey, all at once.
My response to peoples’ complaints about the archetypal nature of the story is that we, as humans, tell the same tales over and over again – it’s part of how we understand ourselves. So what if the story was reminiscent of other tales? In many ways, it needed to be, or people would miss the meaning entirely. If Avatar‘s story was not so archetypal we may have been mired down in a bunch of intellectualism, and missed the point entirely. Mythological tales are designed simplistically for a reason, and often, serve a very great purpose.
In any case its all about the execution, and this film truly was, and is, revolutionary in terms of the technology and use of the technology. MORE IMPORTANTLY – the technology was in the service of the story, and not the other way around. Which is key to the films success.
I do not pretend to be blind to the film’s flaws; nor do I necessarily put it into my list of top twenty films of all time. However, I do see it as having a vast impact both culturally in terms of the subject matter, and technologically in the film industry — which will have its own broad cultural effect. It is certainly a film with far-reaching and varied significance.
To me, the most interesting character in the film was Pandora itself, and I think it is very telling that people have such a resistance to that. In terms of dimensionality, for me, it goes from the least to the most developed characters within the film – the humans – the Na’vi – and then, Pandora. I think our egos resist the idea that we are not the most important thing in the universe, but rather part of a greater, far more complex whole. Personally, that is one of my favorite aspects of Avatar.
Given the response to the film, no one can deny that this hits a very deep, global chord.
Well okay, that chord was attached our funny bone. But the truth is that Avatar sparked a lot of dialogue, and strangely, a lot of fear. China and the Vatican both spoke out against the film (the levels of irony in that connection tickle me endlessly); and certainly, it has sparked a great deal of conversation in the realm of environmentalism.
During the Global Media Day event we had the opportunity to meet with a group that Cameron has worked with since the release of the film, called The Amazon Watch. They spoke with us about the way this film felt relevant to them, in terms of their work with indigenous cultures threatened by a massive dam project in Brazil. I am unable to delve into the layers of complexity involved in this project, and it’s potential consequence, in this post; however, there is a seventeen-minute documentary available on the Collector’s Edition about Cameron’s work with Amazon Watch.
Cameron is certainly passionate about the environment, and has found the film to be a great jumping off point for dialogue. When asked if he had a dream as a filmmaker, he responded:
I dream of a world in which we evolve to respect nature enough to stop doing things like off shore drilling and (things of that nature). That’s where my dreams are, and those feel a lot more impossible than the stuff that we are doing on Avatar, and require a lot of work on everybody’s part. In terms of the movies, I think that anything we can imagine, we go after it, and eventually we will get there.
Cameron is aware, as are we all, that a “movie is not going to change the world”, but it cannot be denied that a movie can open the door to discussion. You may be an environmentalist, you may not be; either way, the best thing we can do is to begin to sort through the issues that effect us all, and initiate a conversation.
This is, amazingly, just a snapshot of all that I was exposed to and learned from the Avatar Global Media Day. One thing I did come away certain of, is this: If you are a film lover, a person who craves knowledge about the cutting edge of filmmaking, then this Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition Blu-ray will be worth it to you. The level of information you will receive on the fimmaking process is immense, and the process itself is very fascinating.
If you are a die-hard Avatar fan, then this will be an even sweeter treat for you.
To read about our visit to Cameron’s Avatar studio and all the new filmmaking technology we got to play with, read the other part of report by going HERE.
The Avatar Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD will be released on November 16th.