How Avatar’s VFX Evolved Over 13 Years – Insider

Thursday | 2023 03 16 | Making of - Movies

It took James Cameron 13 years to make the follow-up to “Avatar” (2009). That time was spent making the sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (2022), even more technologically groundbreaking than its predecessor. While the first movie’s water-based scenes were actually shot on a dry set, the director and his crew built a performance-capture stage that actually worked both underwater and above the surface.

But to get the clearest reference footage possible, the cast had to learn to hold their breath for extended time periods. That way, Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet could act out scenes underwater without worrying about breath bubbles obscuring their faces. The crew could also translate Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, and Stephen Lang’s performances to their Na’vi counterparts with even more accuracy thanks to a helmet with two cameras attached to it that was first developed for “Alita: Battle Angel” (2019).

Tools created specifically for “The Way of Water” allowed the crew to see rough CG renderings of a given scene while they were filming it and helped Wētā FX more convincingly place CG and live-action elements in a scene than ever before. The VFX artists could also create even more nuanced emotions in CG with a brand-new system that allowed them to animate deep below the surface of a character’s face.

These new systems would not have existed without developments between the new “Avatar” films on Gollum in the “Hobbit” movies (2012 to 2014), Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy (2011 to 2017), and Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and “Avengers: Endgame” (2019). It’s no wonder that on “The Way of Water,” Wētā was able to create 2,225 water shots while tracking 3,198 facial performances.


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