The Last Airbender will release to the public a mere few days from now when mother nature’s powerful elements—Air, Water, Earth and Fire—will be handed to us in a way we’ve never seen. Creating a made up world full of CG elements wasn’t easy for M. Night Shyamalan and Industrial Light and Magic; yet regardless of whether the story unfolds as we expect, the special effects will certainly give us enough eye candy to gawk at (and talk about) for quite some time.
The Last Airbender TV Spot
Here are some of the the latest production stills released in the final press kit from Paramount Pictures.
“Visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman recounts that he went outside and lit some stuff on fire, so he would have a bunch of studies of real fire to show to director M. Night Shyamalan. But when Helman showed the footage of actual fire to Shyamalan, his response was, ‘You know what? That fire looks CG.’ Even real fire looked fake.” ~ Charlie Jane Anders (io9)
The Industrial Light & Magic crew used a NASA video of water in zero gravity as reference for how bending water could look.
“The ILM team decided that what you want to see is what the air is pulling up—whether it’s dust or snow, depending on what environment Aang is in. They used the same algorithm for air that they’d used for fire, except that they didn’t render it as fire.” ~Charlie Jane Anders (io9)
Facial motion capture
“There are actually three Aangs in the movie. There’s Ringer, who’s an accomplished martial artist and actually plays the character most of the time. There’s his stunt double Jade, a girl who’s roughly the same size and shape as Ringer… And then there’s a CG rendering of Aang, who’s doing some of the crazy acrobatics and ultra-dangerous stunts that no actor or stunt-person can do. To put Ringer’s face onto the other Aangs, Harrington captured a closeup of Ringer scowling and grimacing, with a billion dots to capture every aspect of the performance.” ~Charlie Jane Anders (io9)
For Appa, the six-legged flying bison, “The cool thing about Appa is that I kind of thought of him as a combination of the Millennium Falcon and Chewbacca…. We looked at polar bears, and we thought of the front two legs as arms that are offset slightly, and the back legs are legs… We looked at polar bears, bison [and] elephants to get kind of the physics and the weight right. We also looked at beavers. There are scenes where he actually swims and kind of uses his beaver tail in the water.” ~ Tim Harrington (ILM Animation Supervisor)
“Aang has a pet flying lemur named Momo. Harrington spent a lot of time figuring out how to get the light to scatter through Momo’s wing membrane. The mechanics of how Momo flies were based on the giant fruit bat, which Harrington figured was roughly the same weight.” ~Charlie Jane Anders (io9)
“In general, the team took a ‘less is more’ approach to layering in computer-generated details to all the scenes, aiming for the most photorealistic images they could create. The locations the film visits are based around the styles of the different tribes.” ~Charlie Jane Anders (io9)
From The Southern Water Tribe Set
From The Northern Water Tribe Set
“I’m not the most techie guy in the world, so if I can keep coming from character, I can keep it grounded. When we saw the cartoon, the mythology was so well thought out and had Buddhism, martial arts and CGI, but the kind that is character-based and that’s coming from emotions. So I could tell ILM [Industrial Light & Magic]…and speak in terms of character point of view and be effective in that way.” ~M. Night Shyamalan
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The Creatures of “The Last Airbender” – An Interview with ILM Animation Supervisor Tim Harrington