Moral of the story kids: Keep your griping far from the ears of James Cameron.
Sitting down to talk with Joel Moore, a.k.a. Norm Spellman in James Cameron’s Avatar, I must admit: I was skeptical about the whole green screen thing. I mean, how hard can it be to act in an artificial environment, where almost everything has been dreamt up via special effects and, honestly, you’re mostly just providing voice work?
(More on Techland: Best of the Decade: Sci-Fi Movies)
Well the guy turned me around. I don’t think I quite realized the extent to which Cameron and company were employing a motion-capture process with the blue avatar creatures. It wasn’t a day off when Moore shifted to filming scenes in his ethereal blue skin; those were actually his toughest days. Maneuvering in a set dubbed the “volume,” with sensors noting his every move and posture, Moore could watch his avatar act out his behavior on a nearby screen.
Talk about trippy stuff: It wasn’t just anthropologist Norm Spellman becoming an avatar; Joel Moore literally had the experience of watching an animated body emulate his actions and emotions.
(More on Techland: Full Avatar Coverage)
Another thing I underestimated: The lengths to which Cameron educated his cast about the Na’vi, and about Pandora, in general. Cameron wasn’t messing around; he made the guys learn this stuff, right down to the vegetation. And when they started to complain one night at a bar about the exhausting shooting schedule, Cameron set them straight real quick: He had been working a whole longer than them without a day off…
But I’ll leave the rest of that story to Joel, who was in a rather good mood when we met up a week ago – and who was exceedingly gracious in walking us through all things Na’vi, Pandora, Avatar and Cameron. If you’re excited about the movie – we see it tonight by the way – you’ll dig the conversation above.
More on Time.com: