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Avatar 2 - free diving stars and motion capturing underwater

Avatar 2 - free diving stars and motion capturing underwater

[14:55 Tue,20.December 2022   by ]    

James Cameron's Avatar 2 - The Way of the Water has recently opened in theaters, after thirteen years of waiting. As exciting as the continuation of the Na'vi saga, which is mainly set in the digitally created world of Pandora, is the creation of this remarkable production: a large part of the film takes place under water and the corresponding sequences were actually shot under water. Wet-for-wet is the name of this approach in English, instead of the usual dry-for-wet, when actors hang from ropes and make swimming movements in dry water.

The latter was used for a shorter scene in the first Avatar movie, but Cameron felt the result didn't look convincing enough for the long sequences planned this time around. Underwater movements simply look different, and the actors also needed to experience the medium of water firsthand in order to give a believable performance. For this purpose, a tank measuring 36m x 18m and 9m deep was specially constructed, in which even ocean currents could be simulated.

Avatar 2 - The Way of the Water, BTS

Now, however, the actors themselves are again not seen in the film, but they are retrofitted into their blue Na'vi characters via CGI (and even as a preview on set in a Virtual Camera). Using motion or performance capture, the movements and facial expressions of the real people were once again transferred to the computer-generated characters. But how can facial expressions be captured by the small cameras strapped to the head when a diving mask covers the face? After all, the Na'vi swim without extra oxygen.

Avatar 2 - The Way of the Water, BTS

And so the actors were specially taught free diving for the shoot and learned to hold their breath for several minutes - Kate Winslet even managed to do so for over 7 minutes, breaking the film set record previously held by Tom Cruise. To ensure that the swimming movements were fast enough (the Na'vi are excellent swimmers), jetpacks were used to provide additional thrust.

The following clip from Frame Voyager tells in detail about this shooting and also gives interesting reviews from earlier underwater productions by Cameron, such as The Abyss, during whose diving shots he almost drowned.

Motion capturing underwater is of course no small feat and is said to have been implemented here for the first time on a large scale - the technology for this consequently also had to be newly adapted. For the capturing, special points on the suits of the actors are recorded by many cameras from different perspectives, so that later each point can be located (and thus tracked and manipulated) in 3D space. For this purpose, cameras were positioned both under and above water. For the latter, however, the water surface posed a problem due to the many reflections - the light reflections could not be distinguished from the intended track points in the footage. As a solution, lots of small transparent plastic balls were placed on the water surface, because they let light through but stopped the reflections.

Avatar 2 - The Way of the Water, BTS

The live-action footage for the film was shot with Sony Venice cameras in a 3D beam splitter rig (even reasonably handy thanks to the modular sensor block). Underwater, specially designed Nikon lenses adapted for water were used.

Weta FX was responsible for the extraordinarily successful post-production - transferring the MoCap shots to the digital avatars, simulating the artificial worlds including a lot of water and so on. Water simulations are extrm complex to calculate and consequently a immense computing capacity was needed during rendering. Many scenes are also shot in 48fps, which automatically doubles the computing effort.

First reactions to the film are very positive, especially the CGI worlds seem to raise the bar again. By the way, the next, third part of Avatar should not be as long in coming - this time, shooting has already started for it.



deutsche Version dieser Seite: Avatar 2 - freitauchende Stars und Motion Capturing unter Wasser


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deutsche Version dieser Seite: Avatar 2 - freitauchende Stars und Motion Capturing unter Wasser

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