December 21, 2009


Prime Focus employed a team of approximately 90 across its Los Angeles, Vancouver and Winnipeg facilities. Company president/ senior VFX supervisor Chris Bond and VFX producer Chris Del Conte headed up the project, working from the LA office. Graphics supervisor Neil Huxley art directed and oversaw the design of the motion graphics elements. The bulk the studio’s work was for the film's “Bio Lab” and “Ops Center.”

The Holotable in the Ops Center is where the film's main characters discuss their missions and plans to mine a valuable mineral found on the planet Pandora. In one key scene, a 3D hologram is called up of the Home Tree, where Pandora’s indigenous people, the Navi, live.

Using the original live-action plate of a table with a greenscreen across the top, Prime Focus modeled the hardware that went inside the table, the projector beams, and added graphics projected above the table of the terrain, including the Home Tree. These graphics were designed in 2D in Adobe Illustrator, animated in Adobe After Effects, placed on cards in 3D and rendered in Autodesk 3DS Max.

Prime Focus’s Krakatoa particle system was used for the 3D terrain, which gave the images a scan-lined quality. The studio also designed interactive stereographic displays for dozens of screens in the Operations Center. Each screen was composed of four-to-eight layers, rendered in different passes and composited together.

A custom graphics script – dubbed SAGI (Screen Art Graphic Interface) – was written for the project. The script takes After Effects renders and binds them to a 3DS Max assembly file, eliminating the chance of human error.

The Prime Focus VFX team also created “Immersives,” screens that provide a 180-degree stereo perspective, allowing military personnel to control air traffic flow in 3D. CG helicopters, buildings and atmospheric elements seen from the Ops Center and commissary windows in several sequences were created by the studio as well.