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Avatar – a technological revolution

James Cameron’s film Avatar – the highest-grossing of all time – was largely created in Wellington’s world-class facilities.

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This 2009 blockbuster was a technological breakthrough that revolutionised 3D films. And it benefited from Kiwi ingenuity and know-how.

Wellington’s Weta Digital produced Oscar® winning visual effects by using director James Cameron’s completely new camera system and shooting on a virtual stage.

Weta Digital created the film’s digital characters and environments, building special effects sequences with as many as 800 fully computer-generated characters in highly detailed digital settings.

Innovative special effects

To add richness to the film, the Wellington firm also created over 1,800 stereoscopic, photorealistic visual effects shots – including of the Na’vi, the people in the film. However, for the Na'vi to be believable, realistic facial animation that conveyed their emotions was crucial.

Weta Digital 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, Weta Digital's own specially developed software was able to map out which muscles in the face were moving. Their 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, 26km from central Wellington – helping to blur the line between imagination and reality.

Just one part of making the world’s biggest blockbuster

Other aspects of the production involved Weta Workshop who provided conceptual design, costumes, weapons and props.

Screen Wellington helped out with logistics surrounding the production to make sure everything ran smoothly.

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