At this point, it’s hard to believe that James Cameron’s Avatar is four years old. It’s also hard to believe that Avatar 2 hasn’t been released in theaters everywhere by now. As James Cameron is putting the finishing touches on the Avatar sequel screenplays – both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 will be made concurrently – the films’ producer Jon Landau talked about the technology behind the sequel films.
According to THR, the Avatar sequels will take place in the oceans of the alien planet Pandora. While the production can replicate water and underwater sequences using CGI and motion capture, they cannot replicate the actors’ performances in CGI water. So it seems like James Cameron may have to make the Avatar sequels the old fashioned way, underwater. Landau explained:
We have kept a team of digital artists on from Avatar in order to test how we can create performance capture underwater… We could simulate water [in computer graphics], but we can’t simulate the actor’s experience, so we are going to capture performance in a tank.
Historically, this would not be the first time James Cameron shot a movie completely in an underwater tank. He used this method to create real reactions and situations on The Abyss in 1989. According to the actors in The Abyss (especially Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), the production was hellish and miserable. There were a number of incidents where Mastrantonio, Ed Harris, and Cameron himself almost drowned while making the film.
So to prevent Sam Worthington and Zoë Saldaña from possibly dying while making the Avatar sequels – which Jon Landau added that the film would “wrap up the story arc of our two main characters.” – the production team is looking at other techniques to capture their performance in an underwater setting. Landau continued:
[We] are looking at [techniques including] what we did before with reflective markers” and that an important task is “how we record reference photography so that as we are going through the editorial process and the postproduction workflow, we can see what the actors did and make sure that the final performance up on screen represents that.
There is still no official release yet for Avatar 2, but it Twentieth Century Fox is looking at a 2015 release date. Watch Jon Landau’s keynote below: