Nowadays film production industry is one of the most profitable. Perhaps, the main reason for the success is that it provides people with what they long to have, i.e. the ability to dream creating entire new worlds in their imagination. It goes without saying that the industry has undergone many changes throughout decades.
Filmmakers try to use new techniques, develop new topics and create new fairytales. One of the most unpredictable wizards of the world of movies is James Cameron who never stops astonishing people worldwide. This is the person who manages to create something better each time. Each of his best movies is more successful than the previous one. Thus, his Terminator 2 became a sensation.
His Titanic became one of the glorious epic movies in the history of the world cinematography. Admittedly, his latest movie Avatar is a revolutionary creation which opened up new horizons for the overall industry. Moreover, it also influenced many other industries and changed people’s conventional perception of art and technology.
Reportedly, James Cameron had an idea of creating Avatar right after he completed his glorious Titanic, having written a treatment for the movie in distant 1996 (Jensen, 2007). As Cameron stated he was inspired by many science fiction writings and some non-fiction books to create the world of Pandora.
He singled out two authors whose books had the greatest impact – Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard — who can be characterized as jungle adventure writers and pointed out: “I wanted to do an old fashioned jungle adventure, just set it on another planet, and play by those rules” (Jensen, 2007).
Interestingly, James Cameron had two approximately equal projects in his mind. He had two stories to be made using the latest technology: Avatar and Battle Angels (adaptation of Japanese comics). In fact, he wanted to realize both projects and only needed to decide what story should go first (Jensen, 2007). Thus, instead of Pandora people could have admired some other world and other characters.
One of the decisive factors while picking up the story was the consistency of the script. Eventually, Cameron had to choose Avatar since he was not satisfied with Battle Angels script: “It was the kid in the candy store problem — too many good ideas and no story” (Jensen, 2007). Thus, they started working on Avatar in September 2005. It took them four years to create the film which was destined to become a breakthrough in the movie production industry.
Admittedly, Avatar was not the first film to use computer technology in film production. For instance, in one of the interviews Cameron denoted that he was sure in the success of his project since he saw what characters and settings were possible to create with the help of technology: Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean (Jensen, 2007). Thus, Cameron believed he could manage to create fully CG images.
It is necessary to point out that Cameron revolutionized the production of digital films. Thus, he did not the common practice of shooting actors and then processing those images with the help of computer technology. James Cameron had special cameras (produced by Sony) which could shoot the complete picture, i.e. the digital images (Siegel, 2010).
Actors had specific censors to capture every movement of their body, every expression of their faces. As far as facial expressions are concerned Cameron also used quite new approach using rather common technique. Apart from censors the actors had specific skull cap which had a camera which transformed every facial expression (Honthaner, 2010).
The actors were performing on the green background which was turned into the beautiful jungles of Pandora already inside Cameron’s cameras. Another peculiarity of this movie production is that two cameras were used to take the same scene creating 3D effect (“Avatar 3D Film Employs Cutting Edge Visual Effects”, 2009). Basically, there are two pictures for each eye captured by two cameras. In fact, this can be called a truly 3D movie.
Of course, it is necessary to point out that Cameron used really latest software to create the world where every leave, every vine were a realistic pieces of art. It goes without saying that such precision presupposed enormous amount of information, a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) to be stored and operated (Siegel, 2010). Cameron addressed Microsoft to handle this really serious issue which could destroy the entire work claiming:
I always have this horror that the best thing we create winds up like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of ‘Indiana Jones,’ being put away in some warehouse where we never find it (Siegel, 2010).
Fortunately, Microsoft team managed to cope with this problem and the digital world became a real one on the screens of numerous cinemas.
It is worth mentioning that at the period of the movie production there were no many theatres which had the necessary facilities to show 3D film so there was no haste in the movie production, since James Cameron understood that the more time passed the more cinemas would be available (Siegel, 2010). It was very reasonable since the film could fail to become such a success if only few cinemas could feature it.
Apart from the use of the unique cameras and software which were used to create a new world, Cameron resorted to professionals to create a new language for the people of Pandora. Thus, Paul Froemer who is “the head of the linguistics department at USC” created a new language which actors could pronounce but which at the same time sounded very exotic to viewers (Jensen, 2007). Thus, people of Pandora speak a language which is, actually, a mixture of Polynesian and African languages and dialects.
Admittedly, James Cameron remains a person faithful to details. Perhaps, this is the main secret of his success. Thus, Avatar won several Golden Globes and Oscars, and became “the fastest movie ever to achieve $1bn (?619m) in ticket sales around the world” (“Avatar Overtakes Titanic as Top-Grossing Film Ever”, 2010).
Reputedly, the movie budget is about $300 million. Admittedly, the revenues are much larger. However, it is impossible to simply state the figures to assess the production costs and evaluate the financial success of the film. First of all, according to Vanity Fair the budget of $300 million did not include marketing expenses.
The production costs were shared by Fox, Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Film Partners which was a very good option to “hedge the risk” (Keegan, 2009). Apart from this James Cameron invested quite a lot of his own money to start the production of the film. Of course, he encouraged some other investors to participate in the project.
The main focus was made on the use of revolutionary technologies. In fact, some people called it technological gambling which turned out to be success. The film gave a great push to the development of many other 3D projects and the development of 3D facilities which were beneficial for many investors and companies.
For instance, many films acquired a new life in 3D format (fiction and non-fiction), 3D technology entered many cinemas and even households. The success of the film enabled James Cameron to launch several projects concerning the film which brought additional financial benefits (for instance, 2 edition of the film with additional minutes).
Apart from wise technology use, James Cameron made other effective decisions. Thus, the live scenes shooting was mainly implemented in New Zealand which saved the filmmakers about $30 million (Keegan, 2009). Of course, there were no many stars featured (in fact, there was only one celebrated figure – Sigourney Weaver) which also enabled to save funds (there was no enormous cast salaries).
Nevertheless, the use of technology was the most important factor which led to great success of the epic film. Thus, only in the first six weeks the worldwide taking of the film reached almost $2bn ($1,859bn to be more precise) (“Avatar overtakes Titanic as top-grossing film ever”, 2010).
People wanted to see the “artificial” digital world with “digital” actors performing. The precision of filmmakers was rewarded since everyone was impressed by the film and went to cinemas several times to feel that peculiar impression of digital reality. It is necessary to add that many people were talking about rather poor story and many borrowings from other films (when speaking of Pandora world creatures). However, the visual effects were still admired.
This admiring can explain the exclusive popularity not only of the film but other products related to Pandora. In the first place, it is possible to single out several version of the film itself (first 3D version, DVD 3D version, the second 3D version, 2D blue rave version). Apart from this the official site of the movie presents Avatar games available for computers or I-pods.
The site also provides the visitors with possibility to purchase toys associated with the film (avatars, robots, machines, etc.). Of course, many other games exist. In fact, the Internet is an affluent source of various games – Avatar versions. Admittedly, the quality of those games differs. Unsurprisingly, Cameron’s Avatar game astonishes with the high quality and is, in fact, a kind of controllable film. The characters of the film should fulfill some tasks and accomplish certain missions.
Notably, it is not a repetition of the film scenes it is a completely new story, or at least some more detailed description of the life on the distant planet. Moreover, the world created by Cameron evokes many discussions and there are many books concerning Pandora and ideas articulated in the film (Mahoney and Carmine, 2010). It goes without saying that the abundance of related products brings financial benefits to the filmmakers and James Cameron, in particular.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Avatar for the development of the cinematography industry. Before this project filmmakers only partially resorted to the latest technology.
There were some images or some parts of settings, but no one dared to make a completely digital movie. It is necessary to stress that only Cameron with his precision could become a successful pioneer. He created a completely 3D world using the latest technological facilities instead of digitizing real world setting. As Jon Landau, the film producer, claimed:
What I believe Avatar has done as much as anything is it’s opened a small crack in the door to let other filmmakers know that stories that could not be told in the past can now be told. No longer do they reside in your imagination or only in the pages of great literature, but you now have the technology to realize them (Siegel, 2010).
So, nowadays filmmakers can use the same technology in their projects. In fact, many filmmakers do use such technologies nowadays. Moreover, the majority of the most successful films are produced in 3D format. The popularity of this kind of technology and its affluent opportunities led to realization of many great projects: screening myths and favorite tales.
Of course, not only industry has benefited. Cameron gave people the opportunity to enter new reality, the reality of the genuine 3D world. Now people believe that there can be no boundaries in the fiction world. They become physical observers of events happening around them.
Thus, viewers get what they want to see and to feel: an illusion, a beautiful dream. The use of 3D technologies in Avatar made people understand that their expectations from a dream world can be met since the contemporary technology enables filmmakers to create something bigger.
Apart from the esthetic impact of the film it is possible to point out the great influence Avatar produced on the development of technology itself. Thus, nowadays companies are interested in developing facilities for 3d filmmaking and such films viewing. Thus, the development of the equipment in cinemas is astonishing.
Besides, people are eager to buy 3D equipment to watch 3D films at their homes. Of course, the development of such technology was a potent impulse for the further development of the corresponding software. So, it is possible that in the nearest future filmmakers will present some new technology.
It is also important to mention that the film evoked quite important discussion of the environmental issues. People could see the world of harmony and what can happen to it if people continue their destructive activities.
Some may argue that it is just a fictional film which cannot have great impact on people’s mind, but it is necessary to remember that these are works of art which make people think of their lives. Thus, the prospects are that Avatar has contributed greatly to the development of people’s understanding of their purpose and destination on the Earth.
In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that James Cameron created a new world which has had a great impact on the existing one. Avatar became a revolution in the industry of filmmaking which influenced the development of technology and opened up new horizons for many people. Thus, the film proved that people have many great opportunities to consider new topics and reveal new worlds which can contribute to the development of the entire humanity.
Avatar Movie Official Site. (2010). Retrieved from
“Avatar 3D Film Employs Cutting Edge Visual Effects”. (2009, December 18). BBC. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/8421468.stm
“Avatar Overtakes Titanic as Top-Grossing Film Ever”. (2010, January 27). BBC. Retrieved from
Honthaner, E.L. (2010).The Complete Film Production Handbook. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
Jensen, J. (200, January 15). Great Expectations. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20007998,00.html
Keegan, R. (2009, December 22). How Much Did Avatar Really Cost? Vanity Fair. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/12/how-much-did-avatar-really-cost.html
Mahoney, K.P. and Carmine, A. (2010). The Ultimate Fan’s Guide to Avatar, James Cameron’s Epic Movie. London: Punked Books.
Siegel, J. (2010, February 5). Cameron Says Microsoft’s Role in ‘Avatar’ Was Key. Retrieved from http://www.microsoft.com/microsoftservices/en/us/article_Microsoft_Role_In_Avatar.aspx