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Avatar's VFX Master: Weta Digital's Joe Letteri

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 23, 2009 at 11:16AM

People in Hollywood tend to put film directors up on pedestals, and as far as Avatar is concerned, Jim Cameron deserves to be up there. I'm calling nine Oscar nominations for Avatar. But its one sure-shot win will be Peter Jackson and Joe Letteri's Weta Digital team for Avatar's visual effects. What they accomplished in the The Lords of the Rings trilogy and King Kong changed the way movies are made. And so does Avatar, which will have a huge impact on movie FX to come, from Tintin to Gemini Man. Nothing, it seems, will be impossible to put on film anymore.
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People in Hollywood tend to put film directors up on pedestals, and as far as Avatar is concerned, Jim Cameron deserves to be up there. I'm calling nine Oscar nominations for Avatar. But its one sure-shot win will be Peter Jackson and Joe Letteri's Weta Digital team for Avatar's visual effects. What they accomplished in the The Lords of the Rings trilogy and King Kong changed the way movies are made. And so does Avatar, which will have a huge impact on movie FX to come, from Tintin to Gemini Man. Nothing, it seems, will be impossible to put on film anymore.

While I interviewed Letteri on the phone in Wellywood for my Popular Mechanics Avatar feature, Letteri blew into L.A. to see the movie for the first time. I grabbed him for this four-part flip cam interview, more on the jump.

Part One - Avatar advances


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Part Two - Facial Capture


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Part Three


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Part Four - The Eyes!


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This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Franchises, Genres, Video, Oscars, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Avatar, Sci-fi, Interviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.