Avatar 2’s CGI/Live-Action Shot Debate Settled Once & For All

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Jake Sully in Avatar The Way of Water superimposed over practical effect of hand tying rope


Avatar: The Way of Water’s CGI/live-action shot debate is being settled once and for all by VFX Supervisor Eric Saindon, who reveals what was real.


The debate over whether a scene from Avatar: The Way of Water was created using CGI or live-action is settled once and for all. For years, James Cameron’s Avatar has been celebrated for its ability to utilize advanced motion capture technology, incorporating actors’ performances with special effects to create different characters and settings. Over a decade later, Avatar: The Way of Water returns to Pandora, following the Sullys as they face another invasion by the Resources Development Administration. The sequel was a box office success, grossing over $2 billion, and once again, earning praise for its impressive visuals.

The trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water raised questions concerning the movie’s CGI, but VFX artists at Corridor Crew used it, and an image of Jake’s hand, to show how effective it was.

However, this led to a debate surrounding what was actually live-action and what was created using computer-generated effects. In a recent video from Corridor Crew, the film’s VFX Supervisor, Eric Saindon, shared that the hand, strap, and some of the water in that scene was practical. Read Saindon’s comments regarding the debate below:

To settle the debate, we were on stage and Jim said, “I can shoot with an actor for an hour on set and I can get the action I want and get the water, or I can f—k around with you guys for three months trying to get the motion, trying to get the water, trying to get everything right.” So, he wanted to actually shoot it, which we did in a kiddie pool, a little plastic one. We had a little buck for the elu, or the skimwing in this case, but what we did was we shot Kevin Dorman, which is one of the actors that did the most on this entire film, we painted his hand, and we did the strap and the part we kept was about [his elbows] down, the strap around his hand, and a little bit of water between his fingers. Everything else was CG.

Related: Avatar 2’s Riskiest Choice Was The Sequel’s Best Move


How Avatar: The Way Of Water’s CGI Improved Upon The Original’s

Navi riding an underwater creature through a coral reef in Avatar The Way of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water employed notable motion capture techniques that made filming possible, highlighted in Saindon’s breakdown of that particular scene. Compared to the original film, the CGI reveals small details that might have gone unnoticed, especially regarding the characters’ appearances. The technology used to create Avatar: The Way of Water‘s underwater scenes is a factor in it being one of the most expensive movies ever made, allowing Cameron to shoot actors within a tank and digitally build realistic ocean settings.

The Avatar franchise is known for its world-building and with the second installment, Cameron successfully improved the look of Pandora. For its achievements in CGI and ability to incorporate animation into what is still considered to be a live-action film, Avatar: The Way of Water has been nominated for two Annie Awards, as well as the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. When it came to that specific scene, the fact that the action of Jake’s hand was practical demonstrates just how detailed the effects are.

It will be interesting to see if the CGI continues to improve throughout Avatar‘s planned sequels, but with parts of the next installment already filmed, it should be expected to look just as impressive. Saindon’s comments reveal how detail-oriented Cameron is as a director and suggest that he and those involved at Wētā FX can create anything needed for the franchise. It is worth wondering what Avatar 3 will look like and if the debate will carry over into future movies as well. With what is known, there is a lot to be excited about and those looking forward to experiencing more of Pandora after Avatar: The Way of Water can be sure to keep an eye out for any other updates.

Next: Avatar’s Worst Future Surely Can’t Happen Now, Right?

Source: Corridor Crew/YouTube

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