Archive for January, 2010

avatar movie

So here are the secrets of some of Avatar‘s unique designs:

The Floating Mountains:

According to the tie-in book, The Art Of Avatar, designer Steve Messing actually visited China and traveled around photographing mountains there to get photoreferences for Pandora’s floating mountains.

Designer Dylan cole says the team looked at “many different types of mountains, but mainly the karst limestone formations in China. There were three main regions, Guilin, Huangshan and Zhang Jia Jie. Other locations were the Tepuis in Venezuela as well as the karst formations in Thailand. It was about finding that nice balance between rock and vegetation. For a lot of the jungle over views, I used photos that I had taken from the Kuranda Skyrail near Cairns, Australia.”

Adds Cole:

One idea that really didn’t make it into the movie is that these mountains are drifting like boats in the water. There was talk about having them collide and have bits crumble away. I think it would have been a great way of showing the power and the danger of the place. Hopefully in the sequel!

How do you convey that the mountains are floating though? Cameron wanted some shots approaching the floating mountains and the banshee “rookery” from above, so Cole and Messing worked on some test shots — one of which became an actual shot in the film. But when you see the floating mountains from above, how can you tell they’re not touching the ground?

Explains Cole, “the best way to show that they are floating is by having a nice sense of atmosphere or a cloud between the mountain and the ground.” Messing and Cole also worked on a giant 360-degree panorama of the entire floating mountain region. Cameron used this in the “virtual sets” when he was doing his motion capture filming, and it also served as a “style guide” for the film’s visual effects, says Cole.


in addition to working on the landscapes of Pandora, Cole also designed the image that became the movie’s final poster:

says cole:

Jim wanted something simple and iconic that would sell the epic scale of the film. I did the final art of the sunset, and the planet with Neytiri and then Fox put in the head of Jake.