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Morphing, “Avatar” and how cutting-edge effects eventually become everyday.

Morphing, “Avatar” and how cutting-edge effects eventually become everyday. (photo)

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We’ve now moved past the first stage of “Avatar” — doubt — and on to the box office record breaking, the hysteria, the reverence and every kind of mass-cultural reaction. So, naturally, we’d also like to know what’s next.

In the New York Times, Michael Cieply roots around for this very thing. “I can’t, offhand, see another half-billion-dollar production,” Sony sales and marketing VP Alec Shapiro shrugs. He suggests the movie will be profitable but one-of-a-kind for the time being. It’s just too expensive to try to replicate an immersive, photo-realistic 3D environment without Cameron’s action savvy to back up the gamble, even behind his very own camera.

Cameron’s a brand name, which seems to be what drove the initial rush to the theaters rather than the much-vaunted technological breakthroughs themselves. But it’s safe to say that since Cameron invented and test-drove the technology, it’ll only go down in price in the future. It’ll take a while for Cameron’s effects to become cheap(er) and ubiquitous, but it’ll happen.

For a comparable example of Cameron’s tech innovations (on a much smaller scale), look at morphing. It had been around in various forms before 1989’s “The Abyss” (like when George Lucas conjured up Patricia Hayes out of a succession of animals), when Cameron’s team became the first in the movies to graft a real human face onto a soft surface.

For “Terminator 2,” Cameron took morphing further, turning Robert Patrick into liquid steel, or whoever he was impersonating, or a mixture of both. But eventually the effect became cheap enough to harness for TV commercials, and went from a stunner into banality. Take this Schick commercial from 1993, a self-consciously race-balanced spot with a morphing twist:

And in this highly enjoyable Miller Lite ad from 1991, they recap the last 30 years of popular culture and clothing — tie-dyes to bell-bottoms to punk to The Future — through the magic of what was once cutting-edge cinematic technology:

[Photo: “The Abyss,” 20th Century Fox, 1989]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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