Published On: Tue, Nov 21st, 2017

James Cameron confirms underwater motion capture breakthrough for ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘Avatar 3’

James Cameron executed groundbreaking accomplishments with the motion capture in the original Avatar, and the Titanic director appears to be set to push the technology further by taking things underwater for his forthcoming sequels.

The first two sequels are set to take place primarily underwater, and during an exclusive interview with Collider Cameron has revealed he and his team have solved the technical challenge of filming motion capture performances underwater.

“Well, we’re doing it. It’s never been done before and it’s very tricky because our motion capture system, like most motion capture systems, is what they call optical base, meaning that it uses markers that are photographed with hundreds of cameras,” he began.

James Cameron directing Sam Worthington on the set of “Avatar – 20th Century Fox

“The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror. That moving mirror reflects all the dots and markers, and it creates a bunch of false markers. It’s a little bit like a fighter plane dumping a bunch of chaff to confuse the radar system of a missile. It creates thousands of false targets, so we’ve had to figure out how to get around that problem, which we did. Basically, whenever you add water to any problem, it just gets ten times harder. So, we’ve thrown a lot of horsepower, innovation, imagination and new technology at the problem, and it’s taken us about a year and a half now to work out how we’re going to do it.”

It has been a long and frustrating delay between the original Avatar film and the sequels and that’s largely due to the development of this new tech, with the director having literally just performed the first successful test.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of testing, and we did it successfully, for the first time, just last Tuesday [November 14th]. We actually played an entire scene underwater with our young cast. We’ve got six teenagers and one seven-year-old, and they’re all playing a scene underwater. We’ve been training them for six months now, with how to hold their breath, and they’re all up in the two to four-minute range. They’re all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calmly while holding their breath. We’re not doing any of this on scuba. And we’re getting really good data, beautiful character motion and great facial performance capture. We’ve basically cracked the code.”

James Cameron directing “Avatar” Photo/20th Century Fox

Cameron is no stranger to filming underwater, previously directing The Abyss and Titanic.

The original movie followed a crippled soldier (Sam Worthington) who uses an avatar body to become part of an alien tribe and ends up having to defend his new home from human invaders looking to wipe them out. While the effects and technology used to bring the world of Pandora to life were praised, reviews found the film’s story and character somewhat lacking.

Avatar was a huge success, pulling in nearly $3 billion worldwide and becoming the highest grossing movie of all time, surpassing Cameron’s own Titanic in second place.

Worthington is back with Zoe Saldana (Uhura in the new Star Trek films, Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy) will return to lead the cast which includes a return by Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Lang and Joel David Moore – all reprising their respective roles from the first film. New faces include Cliff Curtis (Fear the Walking Dead, Risen) and Kate Winslet, who was the lead star in Cameron’s Titanic.

Avatar 2, the first follow-up, is currently due to arrive by Christmas 2020.

Andy Serkis as Caesar filming “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. Kate Winslet will play Ronal in ‘Avatar 2’ as James Cameron teases underwater setting | The Global Dispatch says:

    […] James Cameron has revealed some details of Kate Winslet’s mysterious Avatar role. The Titanic director said in a recent interview with Vanity Fair that Winslet’s character Ronal is a member of a clan of sea people, confirming that she’ll be working heavily in the movie’s underwater scenes. […]

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