Avatar Designs Based on Drilling Rig

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ComingSoon.net has learned that the distant planet of Pandora in James Cameron’s upcoming sci-fi action-adventure Avatar is being based in part on real-life drilling rig the Noble Clyde Boudreaux (pictured left) in the Gulf of Mexico. In the film, the off-world mining colony the actors inhabit will have the look and feel of inner workings of the Boudreaux.

The design team at Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm, visited the rig to learn more about how it is all put together. The movie will utilize a blend of live-action photography and new virtual photorealistic production techniques invented by Cameron’s team. However, the most believable movie sets (computer generated or real) are based on elements of real environments.

Cameron’s design team believed they would find all these elements in Boudreaux. The work of capturing the look, fit and feel of life aboard Noble’s newest semisubmersible was left to film industry veterans, Rick Carter, Production Designer and Kevin Ishioka, Supervising Art Director. In early June, Carter and Ishioka got a guided tour of the rig led by Noble’s Therald Martin and Rig Manager Frank Febro. During the tour the design team photographed and videoed almost every aspect of the Boudreaux, with the goal of replicating key aspects of the rig’s working and living environment.

Of particular interest to the designers were the mechanical systems, crew quarters, ballast control and power plant operations – all of which were measured and documented. Likewise, the team focused on the rig’s ultra-modern drilling and mooring systems as possible settings in the movie’s mining operations. In total, several hundred photos and detailed written descriptions of the Boudreaux will be translated into both real and virtual sets at a studio in New Zealand. Using images captured aboard the Boudreaux, artists will incorporate new computer generated image technologies to transform the environments and characters into photorealistic 3D imagery that will transport the audience into the alien world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures, and characters.

“The visit to the Boudreaux was a great help to our design process to our efforts in making our sci-fi fantasy believable,” said Carter. “You can’t make up the kinds of things we learned.”

Avatar is scheduled to hits theaters on December 18, 2009. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Peter Mensah, Laz Alonso, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang and Matt Gerald star in the film, which tells the story of an ex-Marine, thrust unwillingly into an effort to settle and exploit an exotic planet rich in bio-diversity, who eventually crosses over to lead the indigenous race in a battle for survival.

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