Director James Cameron disappeared after creating the $1.8 billion Titanic at the global box office. After more than a decade, he returned with Avatar and became another blockbuster in the movie market. . But how many people know that Cameron’s Avatar dream began 32 years ago…
Truck driver’s star war dream
In 1977, 22-year-old truck driver James Cameron and a friend went to see “Star Wars” – friends intoxicated in the movie can not extricate themselves, Cameron is ready to play boxing to vent after leaving the theater. He dropped out of college and drove school meals throughout the day in Orange County, Southern California. But in his spare time, he draws small models and writes science fiction – stories that happen in distant galaxies. But now, Cameron faces a frustrating reality: his fantasy world has been brought into life by Lucas (Director of Star Wars)…
So he bought some cheap photographic equipment and tried to restore the shooting process of Lucas. His home in the living room made a dazzling bright light, letting the camera roll along a track to practice photography, but all this made his wife angry. He often travels the University of Southern California library all day to read all the books related to special effects. He became, in his own words, “completely obsessed.”
He convinced a group of local dentists to invest $20,000 to make the Cameron version of Star Wars. He, with a friend, wrote a script called “Generation Alternation” and used the money on a 12-minute piece – a fighting scene between an alien robot and a woman who manipulated a lot of jealousy. But Cameron carefully and hand-assembled the model!).
He originally planned to use this clip to win the studio and then shoot the full length film. However, after being sold in Hollywood for several months, he returned empty-handed and had to put the ambition of calling Lucas for a while. In desperation, Cameron had to work hard to do something worthwhile: working under the hands of the B-level film king Roger Koeman, and was hired to create a miniature spaceship for the movie “Century War.” He grew up in his own way and later became one of Koman’s virtual visual effects experts. In 1981, he boarded the throne of the director and produced the horror film “Pigaver II: Reproduction.”
One night, after the editorial meeting of “Piranha”, Cameron fell asleep with a high fever. He dreamed that he saw a robot screaming toward a frightened woman, and the dream was fixed. In the following year, Cameron completed a script based on this dream scene.
The story was quite convincing, and a small film financing company was thoroughly convinced to fund the film. In 1984, the film was released, and it established the star status of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is the Terminator and the beginning of Cameron becoming the top director.
In the next 10 years, Cameron directed a series of amazing works, including Aliens, Abyss, Terminator 2: Doomsday, and True Lies. These films have a global box office revenue of $1.1 billion, which has brought enough influence to Cameron to rekindle his dream of creating a star epic.
In 1995, he wrote a 82-page script about the story of a sly soldier going to a distant planet to perform a mission after the earth was bleak. The alien world, known as Pandora, is made up of Na’vi, a violent humanoid with blue skin, a cat face, a reptile-like tail, and 10 feet tall. The atmosphere of Pandora’s planet is poisonous to humans, so human scientists have created a genetically modified Na’vi, a new species now known as Avatar. Avatar is human-conscious and can accept remote control.
Cameron believes that “Avatar” will be his renewed work.
Avatar’s dream was hit by Titanic
”When shooting the Titanic, we have been estimating how much it might lose.” Now, when it comes back to its fantastic box office revenue, it is easy to forget that this film was once predicted to be a box office poison. The cost of filming has doubled from the budgeted capital of $100 million, claiming to be the most expensive film ever. The film’s main patron, 20th Century Fox, also pressured Cameron to demand compression costs.
As a result, Cameron promised to abandon all director fees and profit sharing to control costs. He also placed a razor blade on the editing table with a note on it: the film was successful before it could be used. “I only know that I took a $200 million love blockbuster, and the end result is that almost everyone is killed. What am I doing?” He said to a friend privately, “I may have to start my career from scratch.” ”
At the time, Hollywood industry magazine Variety called it “the biggest gamble in film history,” and questioned whether Fox could recover the cost. “Everyone thinks this film is going to suffer a devastating failure,” said Rae Sanchini, the former chairman of Cameron Production.
However, “Titanic” miraculously escaped the iceberg, with global box office revenue of 1.8 billion US dollars, becoming the world’s highest box office income. “We suddenly jumped from the bottom to the top,” St. Gini said. “The sudden success, the BLOG of Mumu, we are all overwhelmed, even more so for Jim, he is physically and mentally exhausted.”
At this time, Fox gave him a check that was said to be worth more than $75 million because of Titanic. With this money, he will not spend the rest of his life. “It’s the money,” Cameron said. “I can play as I want.”
Movie “Avatar” poster
The game is not to shoot “Avatar”
And look at the years after this, Cameron is doing.
Micronesia, lurking near the deep-water bombs left over from World War II, is not a joke, and the bombs are full of explosives. In the summer of 2000, he packed an 80-foot ship with a group of working partners and sneaked into a sunken Japanese warship. Vincent Pace, an underwater photography expert, has been involved in the filming of Titanic and Abyss. He brought all the equipment and looked forward to shooting high-definition images, but soon discovered that Kamei Long has new ideas.
When they browsed the underwater shot, Cameron suddenly asked Pace: Can we make a high-definition camera and play 2D images and 3D images at the same time? Pace is not sure, after all, he is not an expert in this area, but he understands glasses for watching traditional 3D movies. As is well known, such glasses are very inconvenient to use, and if the projector is not calibrated, it will cause headaches after a long time. Cameron believes that there must be a way to change. He actually wants to talk about his vision of the next generation of cameras: portable, digital, high-definition, 3D imaging.
Inventing such a camera is no easy task, but Cameron wants to make a 3D movie that can really make the audience immersive. Since there is no ideal 3D camera, you must design a camera that meets the requirements. Therefore, he invited Pace to participate in the Pacific underwater adventure, taking the opportunity to understand whether the underwater camera is helpful for 3D cameras. Pace thought the idea was interesting and agreed to participate in the development of new cameras. “That underwater trip, Jim’s goal is clear, very fun, but for me, it’s a bit of a second monk can’t figure it out.” Pace said.
Two months later, Cameron bought a first class ticket from Perth to Tokyo for Pace, about $17,000. They soon came to the Sony High Definition Camera Division to communicate face-to-face with engineers. Pace is mainly helping Cameron to convince Sony engineers to separate the traditional 450-pound 3D camera and improve it to only 50 pounds, dual-lens imaging, so the photographer will be much easier.
Sony agreed to build a new production line, but they needed Cameron to provide prototypes, and Pace set out to develop. Three months later, the new camera came out, the camera experiment was good, the 3D imaging was accurate, and even if it was played for a long time, there was no headache. Pace thought that Cameron started shooting “Avatar”. Unexpectedly, the big director took his new weapon and sneaked into the sea for 2.3 miles to capture a three-dimensional image of the Titanic wreck.
Cameron said that 3D cinemas have increased by 3,000
Cameron is certainly not the kind of person who made things a mess. He wants to shoot Avatar, a real digital 3D movie. Unfortunately, theaters are reluctant to adopt this technology because each theater is about to invest $100,000 in equipment updates, and the best way to convince them is to let them see the box office revenue from high-definition 3D movies.
So Cameron decided to let other big directors try his new guy first. The first film was “The Agent Boy” directed by Robert Rodriguez. Although he still wears old-fashioned glasses when watching the film, Cameron only hopes to prove that there is a market demand for stereoscopic movies, which will stimulate the cinema owners to invest in the next-generation projection system. In the summer of 2003, “Agents” had a global box office revenue of $200 million, but when it comes to investing in new equipment, the theater is still hesitant.
Cameron decided to talk to the theater owner personally. In March 2005, at the film exhibition held at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Paris, he went all out to promote his new projection system: “The world has entered a new era of movies.” He is afraid that this will not work. And said that if they do not adjust the equipment in time, they will regret it in the future. At the end of the year, only 79 theaters were able to play stereoscopic movies. However, in the five years from 2005 to 2009, a total of more than 3,000 were added.
However, the lack of stereo theater is not the only reason Cameron is not enough. Special effects companies are still trying to create realistic animation images. In 2002, Peter Jackson designed a stunned image with computer effects—hey, a character in the Lord of the Rings who was enemies with the Hobbits. Cameron believed that the CG era came.
In the spring of 2005, Cameron and Fox executives met, and Mumu’s BLOG requested to invest millions of dollars to realize his dream. At first Fox had some concerns, and not all of them were technical problems. For example, the tail – all aliens need to drag a tail? “Yes,” Cameron said affirmatively, “They need a tail.”
He didn’t say anything, he didn’t explain it anymore. The Fox executives stopped questioning and agreed to take the test. They knew that Cameron was a blockbuster in Hollywood, and the power needed to be said.
Cameron spent five weeks conducting a second test, mainly a group of shots of aliens and an Avatar crossing the forest. Lucas Industrial Light & Magic has completed computer effects, which is enough to convince Fox to invest $195 million in “Avatar.” Cameron returned to the director’s seat.
Better than Star Wars
He invited Lucas to join, Lucas has more than 30 years of experience in making Star Wars, but money is not a problem.
In August 2005, he hired Paul Formmer, a linguist at the University of Southern California, to design a new language system for the Na’vi. He asked Cameron, what kind of pronunciation do you want aliens to have? To narrow down the choice, Paul recorded several different sound samples for Cameron to pick.
Cameron prefers to “clear throat”, which is a common voice in spoken language, and the throat seems to be blocked by something, a bit ambiguous. After determining the tone of the language, Paul began to build a basic grammar system. In order to build this separate grammar system, Paul spent months. “Cameron is a very thoughtful person,” Paul said. “He never tells you where to start building a language system, but he will discuss grammar points with you.”
Thirteen months later, Paul wrote a booklet called “Nami Language” and began to demonstrate how to pronounce the actor. He established the Namei language training camp and taught them sentence by sentence. “Cameron wants the actors to be passionate, but they are talking about a language that has never existed,” Paul said. If the actor’s pronunciation is not accurate, he has to stop and correct it word by word. “Sometimes when I am going to correct their incorrect pronunciation, the actors are also very annoyed, after all, they have never been pronounced like this.”
With the establishment of the language system, Cameron began to name the animals and plants on the planet Pandora. Each animal and plant has a Naimei name, a Latin name, and a common name. Cameron is still not realistic enough. He hired Jodie Holt, the head of the Department of Plant Science at the University of California, to create dozens of them. Plants are prepared with detailed scientific descriptions.
These behind-the-scenes work will never be shown on the screen, but Cameron is not tired. He has hired many experts, such as astrophysicists, music professors, and archaeologists. They calculated the atmospheric density of the Pandora planet and created alien music. When one of the experts came up with the encyclopedia of Star Wars, Cameron glanced and said, “We will do better.”
Finally, the author and editorial team compiled a 350-page Pandora Encyclopedia Handbook that records all the science and culture associated with the planet and fully reflects Cameron’s virtual world. In the winter of 2009, fans of Avatar can read some of the chapters of this encyclopedia online.
Cameron moved the laser pointer and tried to show me something. The rich scenes, with the laser pens presented one by one, were finally settled on a group of Naami people. The pen stopped, and he motioned me to see a gorgeous headgear with hundreds of beads, which looked very clear and really no different. Each bead is designed by a digital artist, Cameron said, so they look like they were made by hand. “Every leaf, every grass is done this way.”
Looking back at 1997, Cameron worked hard for the Titanic. “We work hard, but we are worried, thinking about it at that time.” Now the problem seems to be the opposite: “The expectations for us are getting higher and higher, and the work pressure is getting bigger and bigger.”
This time, Cameron is more like enjoying work, at least he does not need to put a razor blade on the editing table to be clear. “For Jim, “Avatar” is an antidote,” St. Gini said. “He doesn’t have to worry about weather, wardrobes, historical accuracy or other problems. If the heroine has a pimples, it won’t be A terrible disaster, “Avatar” gave Jim the ability to control the overall situation.”
32 years have passed since Cameron’s eagerness to shoot a spacecraft that competes with Star Wars. Cameron finally dreams come true. Now he can’t wait to hear what the audience and critics say, which may be the only thing he can’t control.