Avatar 2: How do you shoot underwater in performance capture?

Avatar 2: How do you shoot underwater in performance capture?

“It’s very complicated”, according to James Cameron.

As promised, the aftermath ofAvatar will take place partly under water. Above all “episodes 2 and 3, although there will be some underwater scenes in 4 and 5”detailed james cameron To Collider from 2017.

Now that the second film has hit theaters and will be back tonight on Canal +, let’s dive back into this captivating interview with the director, who explained his way of filming his actors underwater with a performance capture suit, pushing the use of these new technologies ever further. Disney has since shared behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the making of The Way of the Waterwhich we add to the heart of the article to illustrate his remarks.

Avatar 2: a video behind the scenes of the filming in motion capture

James Cameron loves diving – he demonstrated it again recently by reacting to the drama of the Titanic submarine– and he dreamed of exploring the depths of Pandora as early as 2009. The problem is that it is very complicated to film underwater sequences in performance capture. The filmmaker explains that he had to train for many months with his team in charge of special effects, and that they finally found the right technique in the fall of 2017, when filming had already begun.

James Cameron returns to the crazy bet that Avatar 2 represents

“It’s never been done before and it’s very complicated because of the performance capture system, he detailed. What they call the ‘optical base’ makes it possible to photograph the sensors, these luminous points on the suits, using numerous cameras. In the water, it is more difficult, because the contact between the air and the water creates a kind of moving mirror. This makes the light points reflect, and it creates false markers. It’s a bit like a fighter plane that would send false signals to deceive the radars. It created hundreds of false targets, so we had to find a solution and that’s it, we got it.

Basically, as soon as you add water to a scene, it becomes complicated. It took us a year and a half to figure out how to get by, it pushed us to go further, to innovate, to use our imagination and ultimately to create a new technology. We really did tons of tests, and there it is, it worked for the first time last Thursday (November 14, 2017, editor’s note). We were able to shoot a whole scene underwater with young actors. We have six children/teenagers, including a 7-year-old, who have been training for six months to hold their breath. They are now able to shoot scenes of 2 to 4 minutes in apnea, very calmly. It allows us to film without snorkels, and to get beautiful shots of their faces. In short, we found the solution.”

In December 2022, when The Way of the Water was released on the big screen, James Cameron specified that the shots of the film in performance capture, as well as its sequel and even key scenes from n°4 were spread over a total of 16 months. That’s more than a year devoted solely to filming using this technology! This duration is exceptional, even for a production of this kind.

Once these sequences canned, no less than 1,400 artists from Weta, the company that specializes in this technology, worked tirelessly to bring this still unexplored part of Pandora to life. Cameron said he filmed about 70% of the digital shots himself.Avatar 2. For the first time in his career, he handed over around a third of the performance shots to Richard Baneham, a visual effects designer he had previously hired for the original film.

Explaining immediately that he would be ready to find a “trusted director” to film Avatar 4 And 5the latter seems to be in a good place to replace him if he does not finally turn the whole saga to the end…

Finding the right technique for filming underwater scenes in performance capture therefore required a lot of time and resources from the filmmaker. Then retouching all the shots digitally was also time-consuming. Not to mention that several elements had to be taken into account, such as the fact that the young cast was growing quickly. The interpreter of Spider, Jack Champion, for example, had to shoot his sequences twicetwo years apart, to embody a human living among the Na’Vi.

This partly explains the many filming postponements: announced as soon as the first film was released, Avatar 2 finally went into production in August 2017. The filmmaker secured a mammoth budget from 20th Century Fox to shoot multiple sequels in New Zealand in one go. The Way of the Water was released in December 2022, but its sequels have recently been postponed yet again: Avatar 3already filmed, will finally be released on December 19, 2025, then the 4 will be visible from December 21, 2029 and the final opus is now set for December 19, 2031. “Each film represents an exciting challenge, commented its producer, Jon Landau. But also an epic workload, which takes time in its design, in order to obtain the level of quality that its creators want to offer to the public. The team is hard at work right now, and we can’t wait to bring you back to Pandora in December 2025.”

All these efforts have borne fruit, and not only in terms of revenue: overall, The Way of the Water received great reviewsespecially for its underwater scenes, whose rendering is stunning.

Here is the trailer forAvatar 2to see again this evening on television:

Avatar 2: which actors play the characters of The Way of the Water? (Pictures)

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