UPDATE: TIME Watches Footage From Cameron’s Avatar

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TIME magazine has published a new article talking about upcoming 3-D movie projects and the writer of the piece, Josh Quittner, got a chance to see footage from James Cameron’s highly-anticipated Avatar, which 20th Century Fox will release on December 18. The sci-fi action-adventure stars 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.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

More than a thousand people have worked on it, at a cost in excess of $300 million, and it represents digital filmmaking’s bleeding edge. Cameron wrote the treatment for it in 1995 as a way to push his digital-production company to its limits. The movie pioneers two unrelated technologies–e-motion capture, which uses images from tiny cameras rigged to actors’ heads to replicate their expressions, and digital 3-D.

The film is set in the future, and most of the action takes place on a mythical planet, Pandora. The actors work in an empty studio; Pandora’s lush jungle-aquatic environment is computer-generated in New Zealand by Jackson’s special-effects company, Weta Digital, and added later.

I couldn’t tell what was real and what was animated–even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn’t possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real.

Hopefully we’ll get to see some footage from the film soon as well! You can read the full article here.

UPDATE: TIME has updated its article with the following correction: “The original version of this story misstated the cost of the film Avatar as being in excess of $300 million. The correct figure is in excess of $200 million.”