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The World Premiere of James Cameron‘s Avatar is set for December 10th, just 20 days from now but as of Wednesday, “around 30 minutes of the movie remain incomplete”. Cause for concern?

According to Jon Landau, the film’s producer, the scenes need work ranging from sound mixing through colour timing along to visual effects. What isn’t clear is how many minutes of FX work need to be locked, and how much of that floating half hour is requiring the more final post production polish only.

Landau’s big argument, though is that on a film like Avatar, there’s ” little meaningful difference between principal photography and special effects” – that’s The Wall Street Journal paraphrasing him, but the point stands. There really weren’t any non-FX shots, so of course the schedule will include FX work down to the wire. Imagine the editing room a couple of weeks from completion on a Pixar film – it’s not film editing their doing, but image rendering and sound mixing. The cutting on films so heavily CG reliant needs to be done at an earlier stage.

Marketsaw have reported that Weta have completed their work on the film. If that’s true, it indicates another reason to be sit back and be cool.

Besides the New Zealand masters there are six other FX houses working on the film which proves an awareness in the production that the load needed to be shared. Once again, nothing that alarms me.

For me, the key quote in the article comes when Landau says “Every shot we get back raises the standard for what follows”.

If that’s true, and I’m happy to take it on face value, then I find it hugely encouraging. Even under the big Fox gun and up against the tyranny of a rapidly approaching release date, the production are feeling inspired by their own work. They like what they see, and they want to keep their standards on an upwards curve. Isn’t that what we want our filmmakers to be like?

Another juicy nugget at the foot of the article claims that “Mr. Cameron and a business partner also covered some of those costs out of their own pockets”, further compounding the filmmaker’s faith in what they’re creating.

The article tells us that the film is expected to run between 2hrs 30 and 40, before credits. This error margin almost certainly won’t be down to unfinished assemblies of individual scenes, for reasons I explained above, but because of the possibility of whole scenes being left in or pushed out.

I’m as excited as the next man to see Avatar, but having read about this last month post production sprint, I’m jealous of the buzz that must be racing through the film’s post production team.

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