20th Century Fox pushing Avatar back 7 months from May to December was a good move, for both business and creative reasons. It gave time for more 3D screens to be set up, and it also gave director James Cameron enough time to finish the film. According to an interview with Phillipine Daily Inquirer Cameron’s main duties as director are pretty much done, however he still has to finish the visual effects:
“In the most important respects as a director, I’m 100 percent done because the film is shot and edited,” the silver-haired auteur replied when we asked what he still needs to do between now and December. “My job for the next few months until we deliver at the end of November is more as a visual effects person, working to make sure that the shots look real, that they’re all up to an even standard.”
“In terms of a film’s cut, the studio has seen it,” he declared. “They were pretty happy with it. You saw finished material so there are whole sections of the film that are actually done. It’s just a question of getting in some of the remaining scenes from what we call template level where it looks like a video game up to the level of photo-realism. All the template stuff was turned over to WETA (Digital, Peter Jackson’s visual effects company) like a year ago or in some cases, six months ago for the shots that will come in last. The process is quite labor intensive. I’m working 14, 16 hours a day but all the major creative decisions have been made.”
Cameron also spoke about the tails of the Na’vi and Avatars:
On Avatars having tails, James smiled and said, “The studio asked me the same question. They asked, ‘Do they have to have tails?’ We’re very happy with the way the Na’vi worked out because what we found is the tail and the ears show the characters’ emotional state. A cat owner knows that you can tell a cat’s mood by what its tail is doing. Just as we created a verbal language, we created a vocabulary for the tail and the ears.”
The fact that he is working 14 hour days just on the effects for the next few months means we will probably witness something special in December (effects-wise anyway). I also think it’s pretty safe to assume Avatar will pick up the Oscar for Visual Effects next year based on what we have seen so far, and what was shown on Avatar Day.