“Avatar: The Method of Water” is a sequel, however the VFX workforce had a mandate far past supplying “extra of the identical.” The follow-up to the 2009 authentic “Avatar” had many new calls for — and these jaw-dropping improvements have helped make the movie one of many prime box-office movies of all time.
Joe Letteri, heading up his workforce at Weta FX, tells Selection, “We had been engaged on this movie because the final one completed, figuring out what we might do higher. Then there was an enormous burst of research-and-development” about six years in the past, when writer-director James Cameron delivered the scripts for this and three extra sequels; that’s after they realized the total scope of the movie, which takes place in water about 60% of the time.
For the primary “Avatar,” they’d developed a software package to simulate water.
“However we knew it wasn’t going to be adequate,” says Letteri. “In facial closeups, for instance, you might have water working down the pores and skin. It’s a small element and it’s very troublesome to get it proper; we spent a very long time engaged on that one specific function.”
Issues received much more sophisticated when the character was in a bigger setting. “In case you have a personality who has droplets of water trickling down, and within the background you’re seeing the huge ocean — you may’t create each droplets and an enormous ocean on the similar time; there should not sufficient computer systems on the earth to try this. So you must clear up each individually.”
Whereas the 2009 outing used a whole lot of performance-capture, no person had carried out that underwater. Letteri says with a smile, “Within the first movie, the character of Jake jumps into the water and swims a bit; we achieved that by pushing Sam Worthington round on an workplace chair. We knew that wouldn’t work with this movie. We wanted actors within the water to get the correct movement.”
So the actors carried out in massive tanks on the Lightstorm studios in Manhattan Seashore, Calif., holding their breath so bubbles wouldn’t intrude with the VFX. (The movie is a twentieth Century Studios presentation of a Lightstorm Leisure manufacturing.)
“By way of efficiency seize, we’ve expanded our capabilities. Within the first movie, we might do three or 4 actors concurrently. On this one, we had possibly 24, 26 onstage at anybody time.”
It wasn’t simply the scope that expanded; it was additionally the small print.
To seize facial expressions, Weta had developed a way for Gollum within the 2002 “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” That system has change into the business normal. However, Letteri provides, “We began to see the constraints of it and I spotted it was not going to provide us the detailed performances we wanted for ‘Avatar 2.’ ”
In order that they wrote a brand new system, which turned “an enormous cornerstone of the movie,” he says.
“Underwater seize gave us the physique performances that you could’t get another method. However we dwell and die by the closeup; we have to see what the actors are doing. That was in all probability probably the most detailed effort we put into it; we constructed a brand new facial-animation system for these characters.”
This movie ought to dispel eternally some actors’ issues that they are going to be changed by performance-capture. If something, it opens up casting prospects, with Sigourney Weaver enjoying a 14-year-old, a task she’s unlikely to get in live-action movies.
Letteri is Oscar-nominated for “Avatar: The Method of Water,” together with Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett. The movie can be nominated for greatest image, sound and manufacturing design.