Avatar Officially Set For 2009

It’s official. Oscar-winner James Cameron will begin principal photography on “Avatar”, his first feature directorial effort since 1997’s “Titanic”, in April 2007 for a Summer 2009 release.

Utilizing a blend of live-action photography and new virtual photorealistic production techniques invented by Cameron’s team, “Avatar” will be filmed in 3D for release in the new digital 3D format.

With the continued roll-out of digital projection systems, the studio and filmmakers anticipate that digital 3D theaters will be widespread by the film’s Summer 2009 release.

According to the press relese, Cameron will use revolutionary image-based performance capture techniques, and a real-time virtual camera system, to create new CG worlds and blend them with dramatic performances and live action in ways never before possible.

The story follows a wounded ex-marine (played by Aussie actor Sam Worthington), thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity, who eventually crosses over to lead the indigenous race in a battle for survival.

Zoe Saldana (The Terminal, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl) will portray the local woman Jake first betrays, then loves. Both actors have signed on for possible future installments as well, as AVATAR is conceived as a potential franchise.

More on the process involved from the official press release:

The film’s new image-based process of facial performance capture will get all the subtle nuances of the actors’ performances. ┬áThe virtual camera system will allow Cameron to work intimately with the cast while seeing in real-time, as each scene evolves, the computer generated worlds and characters. This revolutionary approach allows Cameron to direct scenes with CG characters and environments exactly as he would on a live action set.

The edited performances and scenes, incorporating Cameron’s hands-on camera moves, will be turned over to Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning visual effects house Weta Digital (The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Weta’s artists will incorporate new intuitive CGI technologies to transform the environments and characters into photorealistic 3D imagery that will transport the audience into the alien world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures and characters.

AVATAR is produced by Cameron and Jon Landau for Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. Principal photography will take place in and around Los Angeles, and in New Zealand. Live action will be shot using the proprietary FUSION digital 3D camera system developed by Cameron and Vince Pace.

Just after the release was announced, Cameron gave a very long and quite revealing interview to Ain’t it Cool News which you should check out.