Quint over at AICN has a fascinating interview with Iron Man director Jon Favreau. I want to point out two key segments, one where he talks about IMAX, and the other when he talks about James Cameron‘s Avatar. First up, IMAX. Favreau has said that after seeing The Dark Knight, he’s interesting in possibly shooting some sequences of Iron Man 2 using IMAX cameras. But after further investigation into the costs involved with the process, it doesn’t seem like it will happen after all.

“I think it works well for Dark Knight because a lot of that was just practical shots and helicopter shots or shots where there’s CGI in the background, set extensions things like that. But you didn’t have a CGI Batman running through the frame all the time.” … “The difficulty with our film is that our main character is CG a lot of the time. And when you start shooting in IMAX format… it’s a bit unwieldy on the set first of all and second of all, I’m not convinced yet that CGI is going to look…” Favreau admitted to AICN. “And I think that IMAX, I’m warned, costs a lot more, it’s a lot harder to render because of the resolution and I’m not sure at that resolution CGI is convincing yet. So, there are a lot of drawbacks, but in meeting with them the blowups to IMAX format are as effective in many ways, so we’ll see where we land on it, but I doubt that we’re actually going to have IMAX cameras on the set. It becomes very difficult for processing and all of that.”

That’s really too bad, because I think most of the moviegoing public is convinced that those 35mm to IMAX blow-ups are just a marketing gimmick, and I would be hard pressed to disagree. But at the same time, I can understand the challenges of rendering CG effects at such a high resolution. As Favreau says, The Dark Knight worked because so little of it was computer generated. Favreau admits that he was amazed by the giant screen presentation, but from the sound of it, he seems more impressed by a Avatar presentation that James Cameron showed him.

“He’s trying to present this format in a way where it is a game-changer and in seeing it I think it’s the future. I don’t think it’s a flash in the pan. I think it’s going to open up a whole new door and I think more so than the glasses it becomes about how many screens could actually present it in its pristine form,” said Favreau. “The amount of screens is just growing at a very, very fast rate in the states and I think in Europe as well and I think AVATAR is going to be the kind of movie that’s an event that you have to go see and you want to see again just to understand what you’re looking at. And then you still have his very effective storytelling. He really creates an adventure and draws you into it in the hero’s journey sense of storytelling, the Joseph Campbell sense of storytelling. I really liked the bits that I saw and I saw all the various stages of finished, but he’s a purist in the way he approaches things, and he’s very meticulous.”

Favreau says they are “exploring using similar techniques” to Avatar “n Iron Man 2 because “it is a game-changer from a production standpoint”. The line between animation and live action is becoming blurred.

“What I’m trying to incorporate is more of a, certainly for the action sequences, create a pipeline that’s more similar to a CGI film like a Pixar film or even like AVATAR. Where you can work on and refine the action stuff before you even begin shooting, and let the action and the performances be serviced by the plates and not back into a performance by the plates that you’ve shot.”

There is no doubt that Zemeckis and Cameron are revolutionizing the way to make movies, but I’m still not convinced that the end result is a better film. Yes, the filmmaker has much more control than he would ever have normally, but the computer animated characters look stiff, and unreal. I’m hoping that Avatar will be the game changer that Favreau says it will be. You can read the full interview over on AICN.

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