Avatar: The Way of Water is generated in a computer

Avatar: The Way of Water is generated in a computer

Avatar: The Way of Water is generated in a computer

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A new Avatar: The Way of Water featurette shows how practical performance capture stunts were used to bring the film's epic underwater CGI action scenes to life. 13 years after the release of the original film, director James Cameron returns to the world of Pandora with Avatar: The Way of Water, a sequel that continues the story of Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), and their new family. The film sees the Sully family on the run from their forest home after the return of human forces to Pandora. Avatar: The Way of Water has earned strong reviews from audiences and critics alike, with particular praise levied at the film's jaw-dropping visual effects and action.

Although most of the action that ends up on-screen in Avatar: The Way of Water is generated in a computer, a new featurette from the Avatar YouTube channel (shared via IndieWire) shows how performance capture was used to bring the film to life. Worthington, Saldaña, and the other actors did much of the performance capture themselves, but the video makes clear that a very talented stunt team, led by stunt coordinator Garrett Warren, went above and beyond to capture the film's more dangerous or intricate sequences. On top of more traditional stunt work like fights and falls, the featurette also reveals that advanced technical rigs were built from scratch to serve as ikrans, ilus, and other Pandoran wildlife that characters interact with.

Why The Way Of Water's CGI Looks So Good

Upon its release back in 2009, Cameron's first Avatar redefined what CGI could look like in a film, bringing to life an entire planet, including a host of flora and fauna, at a level that had never been seen before. Avatar: The Way of Water significantly ups the ante once more, presenting what often appears to be photo-real environments and characters, rendered with extreme amounts of detail. On top of the technical advancements, patents, and individual artist skill that went into crafting the movie's visual effects, Cameron's dedication to performance capture is what ultimately elevates Avatar: The Way of Water's CGI above anything else.

Actors like Worthington, Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Flatters, and Britain Dalton do most of what their characters do on-screen in Avatar: The Way of Water, only they do it while wearing performance capture suits on a soundstage. From traversing the rain forests of Pandora to fighting, embracing, swimming, and flying, most of the actions scene on screen have an actual actors' performance behind it, which helps to imbue the characters with more emotion and sell the entire experience as "real". For Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron's decision to film underwater scenes in a massive water tank using performance capture is what really sells that the characters are moving through and interacting with water in a realistic way.

What Avatar: The Way of Water really proves, more than anything, is that although technology will continue to advance and CGI will come closer and closer to real-life, an actor's or stunt performer's performance is what is really needed to sell emotion, movement, and humanity. Avatar: The Way of Water's box office continues to knock it out of the park, and audiences are now all but guaranteed to see the Sullys' story play out in a third, fourth, and fifth film, which will surely feature even more impressive stunt work.

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