MAY 2010 IN

Movie Research: It’s Coming From Video Games

The James Cameron movie Avatar was successful largely because of an unprecedented two-year research effort that defined both the story line and the visuals for the movie. Avatar’s unprecedented success has persuaded Hollywood of the value of research — yet not so much that Hollywood film studios are willing to take the risk of investing in research themselves.

Cameron had to pay for the Avatar research himself. He found out what story line angles worked best and what the latest visual technology could do to advance his story. The result was a movie with broad appeal, certainly in its look and its story. Others in Hollywood would like to duplicate this success, but how can they do so if it’s considered too risky to fund their own research?

The answer, at this point, seems to be that Hollywood directors and producers will be doing their best to capitalize on advances that have been made in developing video games. The video game business is more competitive, if that’s possible, than the feature film business, and most major new game releases contain something new in their visual experience. What Hollywood wants to do is to latch on to new ideas that work in video games and find ways to incorporate them into movies.

I am not certain that this will lead to better movies, or any new blockbusters, but at least it will prompt Hollywood directors to do something different from the same old thing. The worst thing Hollywood could do at this point is keep hacking away at the same old ideas.

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