eli5: What makes the CGI in Avatar stand out?

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To me it just looks like every other movie, what details does it have that other movies don’t?

In: Technology

At the time when it came out (2009) the film was revolutionary because of the technology it used to make it happen. When we compare it to movies now, yeah it looks the same but there wasn’t really anything close to that back in 2009. Also James Cameron first came up with the idea for it in 1999, but didn’t have the tech to pull it off.

With the setting being on an alien planet whose outside atmosphere is toxic to humans, and many of the characters being aliens, there are very long stretches of video that you couldn’t film with a camera if you wanted to. It’s 100% computer generated graphics from no real world scene and with the only human element being motion capture of some actors.

If you can’t see humans in the scene, chances are it’s entirely a computer generated image, as opposed to something with green screens, characters in costumes, and effects added. There’s nothing “added” per se, it’s built from nothing.

It’s not the CGI in and of itself that’s the revolutionary thing, it’s the 3D technology used.

Honestly, the movie itself is pretty much the best tech demo in the biz, but not much more than that… It’s not really worth watching in 2D, and 3D at home didn’t catch on as well as some had hoped, sooo…

It was ground breaking *at the time* but really isn’t too crazy these days.

Also it was sort of the fact that the whole movie was almost 100% CGI with only a few scenes of actors on sets and a few on greenscreen. That much CGI, at that level of quality was unheard of (as well as fuuuucking expensive), so combined with the good art direction it really blew peoples minds.

On the tech side, while the average person might not think twice about it, making [a scene like this](https://youtu.be/t8a0LCKxIqg) with the water and everything 100% CG is hard work, and really revolutionary at the time. The tech required to just simulate the water alone, on top of the light simulation, cloth (and wet cloth) simulation, and other animation tools to allow for things to feel that natural was absolute bleeding edge.

These days though, movies like The Avengers use almost as much CGI, and at even higher quality to the point where it’s really nothing special (at least from the point of the average movie goer). In modern times it tends to just be CG artists like me who freak out over [3D facial pores](https://youtu.be/7SvLzKby0lg?t=363) and stuff 😂

It was the theater experience that sold that movie.

Everyone i knew was shelling out the extra couple of bucks for 3d or IMAX. on a properly tuned projector.
You download it now or stream it, its probably not true 4k
Also, your tv may not be set to 4k

Regardless, all these factors bring the visuals of that film down several notches to the point where it’s just another sci-fi action flick.

It used a new 3D film technology. If you view it on a standard screen or without wearing the polarized glasses, then the effects are indeed nothing special.

Nothing whatsoever. It tried to get some extra oomph from 3D, but that was a fad that quickly disappeared. As a result, you’ll notice that Avatar is basically never referenced in pop culture today.

You had to be there. It was the best CGI ever seen around a decade ago, but technology has since caught up.