A still from the film 'Avatar' from 2009.

The 2009 blockbuster, ‘Avatar’,  benefited from Kiwi ingenuity and know-how. It was a technological breakthrough that revolutionised 3D films.

Wellington’s Wētā FX (formerly Weta Digital) produced Oscar®-winning visual effects using director James Cameron’s new camera system and shooting on a virtual stage.

Wētā FX created the film’s digital characters and environments. They were building special effects sequences with as many as 800 computer-generated characters in highly detailed digital settings.

Innovative special effects

The Wellington firm also created more than 1,800 stereoscopic, photorealistic visual effects shots to add richness to the film. Including the Na’vi, the people in the film. But, for the Na’vi to be believable, realistic facial animation that conveyed their emotions was crucial.

Wētā FX used a variety of innovative techniques including facial motion capture.

With a high-definition video camera and markers attached to the face of an actor, Wētā FX’s own specially developed software mapped out which muscles in the face were moving. The software then translated the data and applied it to a facial animation system.

The special effects company also integrated visual effects footage taken from live-action filming. At Stone Street Studios and on location in Porirua, 26 kilometres from central Wellington which helped to blur the line between imagination and reality.

One part of ‘Avatar’

Other aspects of the production involved Wētā Workshop providing conceptual design, costumes, weapons and props.

Screen Wellington helped with logistics around the production to ensure everything ran smoothly.