*See video below*
James Cameron wants one thing to be clear about Avatar: "This is not an animated film," he has said. "These actors did not just stand at a lectern and do a voice part, and then animators went off for the next two years and created the entire physicality of their performance."
One of the most impressive aspects of the movie--which was nominated for nine Oscars--was the incredible depth and range of emotion displayed by the Na'vi characters.
So how did he do it?
Check out the video below to see the technology at work and get the inside scoop on the "performance capture" technology used in Avatar to bring the CGI characters to life.
Cameron said he had to wait until the technology caught up to the vision he had for Pandora, the mythical planet featured in Avatar, and one of the main components hinged on the believability of the actor's performances as the Na'vi. The technology behind Avatar didn't just capture the motion of the actor but the emotion and intent, what senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri calls "performance capture."
CCH Pounder, who plays Moat in Avatar, describes the experience of making the movie:
You've gotta just let go of all of the things you thought were supposed to happen and just do it.... Let your imagination run.
At the end of the video (see below), Cameron observes, "The door has just barely been opened on what's possible with this."