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Making of AVATAR - Pictures, Video and Text
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Making of AVATAR - Using Advanced Motion Capture Technology

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[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c4kNLz_4E8[/url]

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A new muscle system

For animating the digital characters in Avatar, Weta Digital had to develop some key technologies that would simulate realism as accurately as possible. Previously, Weta used relatively simplified muscle-simulation systems to generalise how muscles deformed a character's skin.

With Avatar, CG supervisor Simon Clutterbuck led the team to create a more accurate skeletal and muscle-simulation system. "It's quite cool now. Muscles intercollide, preserve their volume and are anatomically correct," says Lemmon.

"There are tissue layers, tendon sheets and all the critical parts of how a muscle system works. It gives a much more realistic starting point for creating believable creature deformations such as all the sliding under the skin and the dynamics of flesh as it moves."

For the Na'vi to be believable, realistic facial animation was crucial. The Na'vi experience a wide range of emotions and the facial animation had to convey these in a realistic way, or potentially fall into the 'Uncanny Valley.'

Weta used a variety of techniques to get the facial animation to a realistic state. First of all was facial motion capture. Using a high-definition video camera attached to the face of an actor and markers on the face, Weta's in-house software was able to map out which muscles in the face were firing.

The underlying technology is based on Paul Eckman and Wallace Friesen's Facial Action Coding System (FACS). By creating a map of muscle firings, Weta was able to retarget the motion data onto faces that don't match directly – in this instance, the Na'vi.

"We started doing this when we were working on King Kong," says Lemmon. "Andy Serkis was playing Kong and his facial anatomy is fairly different from a gorilla's. By capturing the muscle firings, we were able to retarget the motions back onto an animal with different anatomy and topology. We were looking to do essentially the same thing with the Na'vi but in a more sophisticated way."

"This system allowed us to generate a lot of detail in the motion of the faces," Jones adds. "Jim shot a ton of HD reference of his actors and that ended up being the saving grace for the animation process. Once the facial solve came out of motion capture, we would submit side-by-side renders of the real actor and his avatar/Na'vi counterpart, and tweak and adjust the facial animation to get every last nuance into the performance."

Advanced facial rigs

In order to create and retain the detail in the faces, Weta upped the ante in facial rig complexity and mesh resolution. "The facial rigs are by far the most advanced I have ever worked with," proclaims Jones.

LIFELIKE: Facial performance capture was used to recreate the actor's every nuance

"Jeff Unay and his team really pushed the envelope on these characters, working with extremely high-resolution meshes to sculpt in details and wrinkles that would have normally been placed in displacement maps.

"With the wrinkles in the model, he could control the motion of them so that the skin actually squashes together and then forms the wrinkle, instead of it just dissolving on and off like a displacement."

Jones also gives credit to the advances in hardware for making this possible. "In terms of motion, the technology that has helped us the most was the computer processing and graphics card speeds. A facial rig with this many polys could not have been attempted five years ago. The slow speeds would have made it impossible to animate," he says.
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thnxxxx
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Its a great movie and the great concept. The production, acting, graphics and animation. James cameron always do the unique movie and brought new thing in the film industry.
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