[ATTENTION, cet article contient de légers spoilers !] With “Avatar : The Way of the Water”, James Cameron once again proclaims his love for the oceans and the seabed. For this, the director and his teams have developed the underwater capture performance and have come up against several obstacles.
Avatar – The Way of the Water : Pandora expands
13 years after the release of the first part, the adventure of Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) finally continues in the cinema with Avatar : The Way of the Water. An adventure that no longer only concerns the two heroes since more than ten years after the events ofAvatarthey became parents to young Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss).
While they lead a peaceful life, the RDA’s return to the exomoon suddenly destroys their family happiness. Pursued by Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), alive and out for revenge, Neytiri and Jake have no choice but to leave the Omatikaya clan. During their exile, they find refuge with the Metkayina, who live near the oceans and are led by the warriors Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). To be in harmony with this new environment, the family goes through a long initiation phase.
A colossal show of hallucinating fluidity and realism, Avatar : The Way of the Water is a new technological revolution, immersive and allowing total wonder like no Hollywood blockbuster has done in recent years (discover our review here). If this sequel took so long to land in dark rooms, it is partly because James Cameron and his teams had to learn to master underwater capture performance.
A gigantic tank designed for the film
For Titanic, the filmmaker had built a basin that could hold no less than 65 million liters of water. For Avatar : The Way of the Water, a reservoir 36 meters long, 18 wide and 9 deep was born in the studios of Manhattan Beach, California, home of the production company Lightstorm Entertainment, co-founded by James Cameron. It is in this huge tank with a capacity of 100 cubic meters of water that the aquatic scenes of the feature film were shot.
A place that James Cameron describes as “a Swiss army knife” in the press kit, adding:
We could have waves crashing on the shore and have comedians trying to get out of the water as they get hit by the waves. We could create the interaction of the surf with the creatures and people coming up to the surface, taking a full force wave and trying to declaim their lines…while trying to breathe at the same time.
To create artificial waves, the feature film team developed a tool with two boat propellers dubbed “the racing field” and capable of causing “a current of ten knots”which corresponds to approximately 18.5 km/h.
A team in apnea
So that the actors could dive in and out of the water naturally, another volume (capture performance platform) was placed less than a centimeter above the tank. If the characters dive and rise to the surface, it is because the actors actually performed these moves, which reinforces the emotion according to the director. He explains about this unique process:
The computer takes data from one volume and then the other and, in real time, integrates all this information to show me on the virtual camera people coming and going, swimming, getting on a pontoon or diving and moving under water. It involved merging two completely separate capture methods.
During filming, James Cameron ran into a problem. While he thought he could equip his technicians with diving equipment, he realized that the bubbles caused by the breathing apparatus acted like “reflecting mirrors” and disrupted the performance capture system, which could no longer tell the difference between a scoring point and a bubble. Like the actors, the technicians therefore had to train in snorkeling. The filmmaker explains this:
Everyone working in the tank had to hold their breath. If someone downstairs was working on the lights, he held his breath. Same for camera operators.
Technical feats that have given birth to something new in cinema. Avatar : The Way of the Water is to be discovered in cinemas from December 14, 2022.