Thursday, November 30, 2023

James Cameron: Filming Avatar 2 ‘Could Only Be Done In Water’


With James Cameron’s highly-anticipated “Avatar” sequel movie coming to cinemas this December, the hype machine has really begun to ramp up.

In a recent Empire Magazine article on the movie, Cameron talked about the necessity of filming underwater instead of on dry land:

“It was just so compellingly clear it could only be done in water,” he says. “Besides, the movie is called The Way Of Water. It’s not called ‘The Way Of Dry For Wet’.”

This is the film’s real technological breakthrough: sub-aqua performance capture, taking the process out of a grey volume and into a 900,000-gallon tank, replete with a wavemaker to replicate the ocean’s currents.

“We could not let the light from above go directly into the water, or it would take away from our ability to capture,” says Richard Baneham, visual-effects creative supervisor at Cameron’s company Lightstorm. “We couldn’t put a canvas across the tank because it wouldn’t be safe. So, we put hundreds of small, white polymer balls on the water that would diffuse the light but [still] allowed the actors to come up for breath.”

Director James Cameron and Kirk Krack on set during the filming the Avatar sequels.
Director James Cameron and Kirk Krack on set during the filming the Avatar sequels.

The article goes on to mention Performance Freediving International Founder Kirk Krack, who spent two years working on the film, and told in 2019 that the film will be “the most significant diving movie ever made.”

The actors in the film also talk to Empire about the freediving training they had to undergo:

The actors were sent on a field trip to Hawaii to get the hang of it all — “We met a manta ray and I turned into a five-year-old,” marvels Cliff Curtis — then got to grips with Cameron’s diktat that they act underwater without their cheeks puffed out, their lips pursed together or big bulging eyes, in scenes running two to three minutes.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” admits Worthington. “You’re dealing with the restrictions of freediving, the constraints of motion capture underwater, and you’re trying to keep an emotional journey going while you’re innately struggling with the fear of dying.”

As anyone involved will tell you, the winner of the Way Of Water Freediving Championship was Kate Winslet.

“Seven minutes and 14 seconds, baby!” she beams about holding the longest breath among the cast. She loved how calm it made her feel, she says, “but the most amazing thing for me as a middle-aged woman was to learn something not just new, but superhuman!”

Check out the full Empire Magazine article here.

Avatar: The Way of Water | Official Teaser Trailer

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.