First “Avatar” Footage Screened

TIME Magazine writer Josh Quittner has seen the first footage from James Cameron’s highly-anticipated sci-fi feature “Avatar” which 20th Century Fox is set to release on December 18th.

The film is set in the future, and most of the action takes place on a mythical planet, Pandora. The actors work in an empty studio; Pandora’s lush jungle-aquatic environment is computer-generated in New Zealand by Jackson’s special-effects company, Weta Digital, and added later.

Of the film’s graphics, Quittner says “I couldn’t tell what was real and what was animated–even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn’t possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real.”

The article also indicates that the film costs in excess of $200 million (not $300M as previously reported) and combines two unrelated technologies – e-motion capture, which uses images from tiny cameras rigged to actors’ heads to replicate their expressions, and digital 3-D.