'AVATAR' MAKES USE OF ADOBE'S CREATIVE SUITE
HOLLYWOOD — There’s an adage in Hollywood that there’s making the movie
and there’s getting the movie made. It’s debatable which is harder, but
one can’t happen without the other, and producer Jon Landau made that
clear during an interview we had with him at the recent Adobe Max
Conference. He discussed the role that Adobe software played in James Cameron’s epic, sci-fi adventure movie Avatar, on which Landau served as a producer.
After Landau and Cameron went to 20th Century Fox in 2005 and got the
go-ahead to make this movie, he says the first piece of software the
production bought was Adobe Photoshop.
“On Avatar, one of the exciting things is that it creates a whole new
universe.” They used Photoshop right at the beginning to do preliminary
concept work and then later in the process to create texture maps for
characters and matte paintings. “Four artists came on board,” he says,
“to work with our production designer and started putting pen to paper
and mouse to machine.”
That was just the beginning. Avatar
also used In-Design, After Effects, Connect, Lightroom and Premiere Pro
throughout the overall design and performance-capture phase of the
In-Design was called on to prepare print documents, such as concept art
and storyboards that would be distributed to the production team. “We
used Lightroom,” explains Landau, because they had over 10,000 images
on the movie “that we documented and that we were able to track and
catalog and use all the metadata.
“We also put together an art reel,” he continues Landau. “Where we took
the concept art, worked with it in After Effects created some moves on
it, effects and different things. We added ADR voices on top and I had
the executives sit in the Lightstorm screening room and watch the
‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the movie set to Photoshop images.”
After Effects was also a key tool for them during production so they
could show Cameron material right on the set where a CG character or
live actor on greenscreen would be composited on to a background.
During the performance capture, multiple HD cameras would shoot
close-ups of the actors’ faces. Those video faces were combined with
basic rigged characters so the director could see the actual actors’
facial expressions on their Navi characters. That footage got dubbed
the “Kabuki mask” versions, because of how the video faces looked
pasted on to the CG heads.
Landau recalls, “We were doing a shoot and one of our key artists could
not be on the set. Thanks to Adobe Connect he was able to access
computers that we had on the set and work with an artist who was not as
familiar with what we were doing, and it was as if [simulcam
supervisor] Casey Schatz was there.”
Adobe’s video editing software Premiere Pro, notes Landau, was an
active tool in their production lab facility. Artists used it to “check
stereo space,” since Avatar was being released in both a flat and 3D version.
“The way I look at it,” concludes Landau, “there are certain software
tools that enable you to do your job and there are other software tools
that enable you to do your job better. And that’s what we have found
with all the Adobe products that we worked with throughout the course