‘Avatar’ Sequels Will Feature Underwater Performance Capture

Bryan Enk
Movie Talk

What's the latest high-tech filmmaking technology that James Cameron will utilize to bring his latest sprawling mad cinematic vision to life?

Performance capture is old news. Heck, they're even using it for that new "Ninja Turtles" movie. But how about performance capture ... underwater? The "Avatar" sequels will apparently feature this newfangled approach to creating otherworldly characters in otherworldly environments, as revealed by producer Jon Landau.

"We want to take advantage of the technologies brilliant people are putting out to make the next two movies even more emotionally engaging and visually tantalizing, and to really wrap up the story arc of our two main characters," Landau said at the 2013 NAB Technology Summit on Cinema. The "Avatar" team is currently exploring technologies to allow for underwater capture of actors' performances "because we can simulate it visually but can't simulate it experientially for them."

Cameron announced shortly after the release of his 2009 megahit that "Avatar 2" and "3," which will shoot simultaneously, will explore new areas of Pandora, focusing heavily on the moon's vast oceans and the many strange species that dwell within. Cameron is certainly no stranger to working underwater, having pushed the envelope (and his actors' endurance) with his 1989 sci-fi extravaganza, "The Abyss." Oh, and he also made a giant boat sink in "Titanic" (1997).

The "Avatar" sequels will continue the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic Marine turned giant tree-hugging blue alien after he's dispatched to the distant moon of Pandora to enforce a greedy mega-corporation's excavation of a rare material, a project that doesn't sit too well with the moon's natives, the Na'vi. "Avatar" is currently the highest-grossing film of all time with a worldwide box office take of $2,782,275,172.

Cameron hopes to begin principal photography on the sequels by the end of the year, which means we shouldn't expect a theatrical release for "Avatar 2" until sometime in 2016 at the earliest. Cameron will once again shoot in 3D and also incorporate the 48 fps technique used by Peter Jackson on "The Hobbit."