How ‘Avatar: The Means Of Water’ Revolutionizes Underwater Cinematography

For Avatar: The Means of Water, a brand new cinematic journey from twentieth Century Studios and Lightstorm Leisure, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Cameron and his staff developed new filmmaking know-how to seize the actors’ performances underwater—one thing that had by no means been accomplished earlier than within the historical past of cinema. “The important thing to it was to truly shoot underwater and on the floor of the water so folks have been swimming correctly, getting out of the water correctly, diving in correctly,” Cameron says. “It seems to be actual as a result of the movement was actual. And the emotion was actual.”

First, the crew constructed a tank on the Manhattan Seashore Studios in California, the place Cameron and producer Jon Landau’s manufacturing firm is situated. The tank’s monumental measurement allowed Cameron to duplicate real-world oceanic circumstances. At 120 ft lengthy, 60 ft broad, and 30 ft deep, it may maintain greater than 250,000 gallons of water. “That grew to become our full Swiss military system,” Cameron says. “We may do waves breaking on the shore and have folks making an attempt to get out of the water whereas they’re getting hit by waves. We may create wave interplay with the creatures and folks surfacing, getting hit by a wave, making an attempt to say their strains, and making an attempt to breathe on the similar time.” A propeller system dubbed “the racetrack,” which included two 6-foot- diameter ship propellers, was used to drive the present within the tank. “It was solely a 10-knot present,” he explains, “however we have been capable of make it look a lot sooner for the movie.”

For the efficiency seize know-how to work underwater, the water wanted to be crystal clear—which means scuba gear wasn’t a viable filming possibility. “You’ll be able to’t have a variety of air bubbles,” Cameron explains. “Each a type of air bubbles is just a little wiggling mirror, and the system that’s making an attempt to learn all of the marker dots on the actor’s physique so it may well seize their movement can’t inform the distinction between a marker dot and a bubble.” That left Cameron and his crew with one possibility: “All people who was working within the tank was holding their breath,” the filmmaker says. “If there was someone down there holding the sunshine, they have been holding their breath. In the event that they have been working a digital camera, they have been holding their breath. The actors, after all, needed to be holding their breath.”

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Landau explains, “We didn’t wish to simulate it. We didn’t wish to do what folks known as ‘dry for moist.’ We wished to place Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and others in water—to have them really feel the present, the motion, the waves, and to present a efficiency. Nobody has ever accomplished efficiency seize underwater.”

With the intention to give compelling performances underwater, the forged studied free diving with internationally acknowledged skilled Kirk Krack. “The actors actually loved it,” Cameron says. Certainly, Worthington says, “Jim is at all times pushing know-how and tips on how to uniquely inform a narrative in a manner that has by no means been tried earlier than. I take pleasure in being on the forefront of that with him, being examined and challenged, bodily and emotionally.”

With the tank constructed and the forged and crew skilled in free diving, Cameron was capable of deliver his grand imaginative and prescient to life. “What we primarily wound up with was a quantity [aka performance-capture stage] for underwater and a separate quantity for the air,” he says. “These two volumes needed to sit proper on prime of each other with solely an inch in between. The pc’s taking information from one quantity, information from the opposite quantity, and in actual time integrates all that data and exhibits me on my Digital Digital camera folks coming and going, swimming up, getting out onto a dock, or diving in and swimming underwater. It was two fully separate strategies of seize being fused collectively. Clearly, the software program to try this took fairly some time to get labored out, however the finish outcome was superb.”

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Efficiency seize for Avatar: The Means of Water started in September 2017 and ran for roughly 18 months, with Cameron and the forged engaged on scenes for all 4 of the sequels. Within the edit bay, after Cameron and the editorial staff picked one of the best performances for every second of a given scene, Cameron then employed a revolutionary Digital Digital camera to create the precise photographs. The Digital Digital camera allowed him to shoot scenes inside his computer-generated world, simply as if he have been filming at an actual location or on a Hollywood soundstage. By this Digital Digital camera, he would see not Saldaña, Worthington, or Weaver, however their large blue characters on the planet of Pandora. “I may see all people the place they’re purported to be, above or under the water, and I may discuss to them over the diver handle system,” he says. “They have been performing to real-time route based mostly on what I used to be seeing on the Digital Digital camera.”

As soon as the Digital Digital camera photographs have been edited into lower sequences, the photographs and performances have been delivered to the visible results specialists at visible results firm Wētā FX in New Zealand. Beneath the route of senior visible results supervisor Joe Letteri, in collaboration with Lightstorm’s Richard Baneham, the Wētā FX artisans labored to protect the nuances of every actor’s efficiency. “We have a look at each actor and each efficiency at a frame-by-frame degree to verify it matches,” explains Letteri. “To me, it at all times comes all the way down to the characters and the flexibility to be with them, to be within the second with them, to see their performances, to know what they’re feeling and what they’re going by way of. That emotional connection is at all times what you’re going for.” In the end, Landau says, “Wētā FX is realizing our photographs at a a lot higher-fidelity efficiency and photo-real high quality. After we made the primary movie, I advised folks we wanted to be photographic; we didn’t have to be photo-real, as a result of nobody may inform me what’s ‘actual’ on Pandora. However now, as a result of we’ve got so many scenes that combine each live-action and [computer-generated] characters and parts, we needed to increase the bar to ship one thing that’s one hundred pc photo-real.”

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Undoubtedly, the underwater efficiency seize applied sciences and methods that Cameron and his artistic staff crafted for Avatar: The Means of Water will ripple throughout future Hollywood productions. “It’s an extremely advanced drawback, but it surely’s not like we have been ranging from scratch,” Cameron says. “We have been doing water simulations again on Titanic, however [now] it’s taking it not simply to the following degree, however up 5 ranges. The fantastic thing about it’s, in case you can remedy water for this film, you are able to do all water anytime—till the tip of time. These instruments turn out to be extremely vital for the consequences trade at giant.”