New ‘Avatar 2’ Set Photo Teases Fun with Underwater Motion-Capture

     May 13, 2020

Folks, after last week’s soothing images of James Cameron directing pool noodle-riding actors from afar, we have a delightful new, pool noodle-centric image from the set of Avatar 2, and the bobbing little happy faces of the A-list cast make for a delightful mid-week treat.

It has been more than a whole-ass decade since Avatar hit theaters. For context, we were still using iPhones 3 when the movie came out, and in the years since, SpaceX landed a rocket, Marvel created a whole cinematic universe, Netflix even became Qwikster for a while (remember that?) before revolutionizing the production and distribution of entertainment media. Hell, we’ll have had three presidential elections by the time we finally get the long-developed sequel in 2021. And you know what that means? With pioneering filmmaker James Cameron at the helm, that means we’re gonna get some groundbreaking new cinematic technology when we finally head back to Pandora.

From The Terminator to Titanic and, indeed, the first Avatar movie (which helped usher in a new era of 3D filmmaking, among other feats,) Cameron has spent his career pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished on-screen. With the upcoming Avatar sequels, one of those new inventions is the use of underwater motion-capture — a key technological development Cameron had to wait for before proceeding with his long-awaited follow-up films — and the official Avatar social media accounts just shared a new image of the cast having a jolly ol’ time while using it.

We previously saw Sigourney Weaver back in action in the world of Avatar in an image that confirmed she’s keeping a Dorian Grey-style portrait of herself stashed somewhere. This week’s peek behind the scenes sees franchise leads Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington noodling around in the CGI seas with newcomers Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis. Check out the set photo in the tweet below.

Cameron previously told us about developing the new underwater motion-capture technology, which says will be a key component of Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 in particular:

“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. 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.”

We shall see if the challenge was worth the uphill (or underwater) climb when Avatar 2 arrives in theaters on December 17, 2021.

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