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Interactive Annual 18:


Launch Live Site
Launch Movie

“A magical, immersive experience that never lets on how much work went into it.”
—Kim Rees

“Insight into the world behind the magic of filmmaking. Avatar is a powerful movie, filled with new techniques and technologies, and the ability to step into the character’s shoes and experience the ‘behind the scenes’ merging of live-action with an animated environment is amazing.”
—Kelly Goto

Overview: Part of Avatar: The Exhibition at the EMP Museum, this exhibit provides a sense of how filmmaking is changing the way performers and filmmakers work by replicating the real-time performance capture of Avatar’s actors. During the production of the movie, director James Cameron used a virtual camera to move within and capture Pandora’s three-dimensional landscape. Instead of donning cumbersome motion-capture suits, natural user interface technologies are used to capture the movements of visitors who step into SocialStage’s glowing room. Visitors can create their own unique versions of scenes with the 3-D material that visual artists created for the film.

  • • From concept to completion, the project took five months.
  • • The exhibit included SocialScreen, a platform for visitors to wander through Pandora’s environment; and Social-Table Touch, an interactive table of trivia, images and video from the movie.
  • • Integrated sharing technology enables visitors to take home or share a video of their experience.

Comments by Graham Plumb

How did time constraints affect your final solution? “We had to design and engineer four Avatar exhibits within five months—a crucial interval as it was important to capitalize on the audience’s memory of the movie. We were aided by use of Cameron’s actual digital files from the film, but working with this produced its own challenges, primarily in terms of processing power and bolstering stability of the system to withstand near-constant usage.”

Were there any specific demands that made the project easier or harder? “Since audiences everywhere were familiar with Avatar, the film, we were compelled to adhere to its aesthetic context while creating a genuine, museum-grade interactive experience. We wanted to avoid simply molding a ‘theme park attraction.’ With SocialStage, we were recreating an activity that normally requires engineers, 170 cameras, motion capture suits and thousands of cubic feet. Obviously, we streamlined our approach to make it user-friendly for an all-ages audience that regularly reaches hundreds a day.”


Graham Plumb, creative director
Robert Mark Morgan, exhibition designer
James Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment/Nolan Murtha, Lightstorm Entertainment/Dan Neufeldt, Lightstorm Entertainment, developers
Alan Shimoide, senior developer
Don Olmstead, engineer
Addy Froehlich, exhibition developer
Brian Phraner, technology director
Nathan Heigert, illustrator
Christina Orr-Cahall, executive director
Aleen Adams, interactive producer
Scott Snibbe, executive producer
Bridget Jennings, project manager
Sean Monroe, production designer
Brooks Peck, curator
Stephen Allen, quality assurance
EMP Museum/Lightstorm Entertainment/Snibbe Interactive (San Francisco, CA), project design and development
EMP Museum, client

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