The Science Behind the Fiction-Joe Letteri

The Science Behind the Fiction-Joe Letteri

For the full article by Adrian Pennington click here-The Science Behind the Fiction

The Avatar sequels
All of these cutting-edge developments are being trained on Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 which are in production in New Zealand and LA for release beginning in 2020 until 2025. Everyone expects the sequels to break ground – and in multiple ways. Cameron has reportedly test shot sequences underwater. Yet with technology moving so fast, striking a balance between taking risks on innovation and using tried and tested routes is one the VFX super must weigh.

Avatar:

Avatar: “The risk lies in not doing it”

“The risk lies in not doing it,” declares Letteri. “We’ve never been conservative about what’s required of us to figure out a way of doing what hasn’t been done before. If you don’t try you are never going to get there.”

While not strictly a visual effects technique, high frame rates can be another tool to accentuate realism. Letteri worked on The Hobbit which was filmed at 48 frames a second although the hyper-vivid quality was not to everyone’s taste.

“We are testing [HFR] for Avatar,” Letteri confirms. “Audiences are used to seeing 24 frames per second where the intermediate frames go blank and their mind fills the space with an image. It engages the imagination in a certain way. There’s a case for high frame rates with stereo 3D and lots of fast motion and you want to erase motion blur. It depends on the intent of the filmmaker. They might experiment and see if it can be used it to the advantage of certain scenes within a film.”

He feels that audiences are more likely to suspend their disbelief seeing some physical effects like miniatures and stop motion “because there’s a physical reality to it even though they know it’s not real” but that CGI is unforgiving. “We have to get everything absolutely right and not slip up otherwise the fact that it’s not real will strike a more discordant note in the audience’s mind.”

That said, he says it’s often easier to solve a problem in a computer “because you quickly run into limitations when you do it physically.

“I think we’ll be able to reach a point where we won’t be able to tell what’s real and what’s not,” he says. “You will hit the limit of what you need every pixel to look like to do exactly what it would have done if you photographed that character. For some kinds of effects, I think we are already there.”

A keen astronomer who has long harbored fantasies about traveling to outer space, Avatar is a dream come true.

“When Jim said ‘let’s go to Alpha Centauri and make a whole new world” I couldn’t wait,” he says. “That’s where I’m going.”

Joe Letteri the director of Weta shares a bit about working on Avatar and the Avatar sequels. Joe grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has worked on films ranging from Star Trek to Jurassic Park and is a pioneer in the motion capture world.

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