Avatar 2: James Cameron on the Tech Challenge

James Cameron has been chatting about the technical problems of shooting Avatar 2's underwater sequences...

Production is finally underway on James Cameron’s quartet of Avatar sequels, that are set to keep him busy for the next seven to eight years. For some time it’s been known that Avatar 2 in particular would explore the underwater side of the planet Pandora. And Cameron, in a new interview, has opened up about just what technical problems that’s presented when doing motion capture work underwater.

“It’s never been done before”, he confirmed to Collider, “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 added that “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”.

Yikes. Declaring that water makes any problem “ten times harder” – and this is from the man who made The Abyss – he’s admitted that it’s taken “a year and half now” to conquer the issue.

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He admitted that things worked successfully for the first time just last week. “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”. Cameron added that his cast have been in training for six months to get to the stage of acting underwater.

Production on Avatar 2 moves to a bigger tank in January, and water will be the setting for the bulk of Avatar 2 and Avatar 3, he confirmed.

Avatar 2 is due in cinemas on December 18th 2020.