'Avatar 2' Will Use Underwater Performance Capture Technology

It's no secret that parts of James Cameron's Avatar sequels will take place underwater. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has been open about this, as has his producer Jon Landau. It's an environment Cameron's comfortable with, as we've seen not only through Titanic, but through his IMAX documentaries and personal exploration trips.

Setting Avatar 2 underwater poses many issues, however. One big hurdle is the need for Cameron's fully performance-captured characters to interact in that environment. Well, at a recent conference, Landau revealed they're currently testing technology to do full performance capture underwater. This would be a huge leap ahead in technology that's been evolving from Lord of the Rings to Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Read his quotes and more below.

Landau spoke about this at the NAB Technology Summit on Cinema. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter:

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

He expands:

We are looking at [techniques including] what we did before with reflective markers....[Also important 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.

Much as the first Avatar pushed 3D, in-camera virtual set and performance capture technologies, Landau believed this underwater performance capture is just one of the ways the sequels will once again push technology ahead:

We want to take advantage of the technology that people are putting out there to make the next two movies more engaging and visually tantalizing, and wrap up the story arc of our two main characters.

Landau also talked about shooting in 3D, high frame rate, data storage and more. Read his quotes here.

One thing he didn't mention, probably because it was a technology conference and not a press conference, was Cameron's progress on the scripts. But we know he's working on them, we know they have studio space in southern California as well as New Zealand, and know that his main star – Zoe Saldana – just signed up for another massive tentpole film, Guardians of the Galaxy, suggesting nothing will move ahead on Avatar 2 for quite some time. Plenty of time to perfect underwater performance capture.