James Cameron reveals why Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 have taken so long

The films' underwater scenes have proved tricky to master

Jacob Stolworthy
Wednesday 22 November 2017 10:45 GMT

It seems by now that James Cameron has spent more time talking about his forthcoming four Avatar sequels than he's actually spent making them.

What's clear, however, is that the filmmaker has big plans to make his sequels just as much of a technical feat as the first one was upon its release back in 2009.

While he's certainly made this clear over the past year (for example, he wants people to watch the films in glasses-free 3D), Cameron has revealed the Avatar sequels will be set apart by something which has taken his team a year and a half to just figure out: underwater motion-capture technology - something he claims has “never been done before.”

“We’re doing it,” he told Collider ahead of the 20th anniversary of his film Titanic. “It’s never been done before and it’s very tricky because our motion capture system, like most motion capture systems, is what they call optical base, meaning that it uses markers that are photographed with hundreds of cameras.

Avatar - Official Trailer

“The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between the air and the water, which forms a moving mirror. That moving mirror reflects all the dots and markers, and it creates a bunch of false markers. It’s a little bit like a fighter plane dumping a bunch of chaff to confuse the radar system of a missile. It creates thousands of false targets, so we’ve had to figure out how to get around that problem, which we did.

“Basically, whenever you add water to any problem, it just gets ten times harder. So, we’ve thrown a lot of horsepower, innovation, imagination and new technology at the problem, and it’s taken us about a year and a half now to work out how we’re going to do it.”

He confirmed that - just last week (14 November) - he had "played an entire scene underwater with our young cast.”

“They’re all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calmly while holding their breath,” he added. “We’re not doing any of this on scuba. And we’re getting really good data, beautiful character motion and great facial performance capture. We’ve basically cracked the code.”

Cameron confirmed that the majority of underwater scenes will take place in Avatar 2 and 3. The director is shooting all four films back-to-back with release dates set for 18 December 2020,17 December 2021, 20 December 2024, and 19 December 2025.

It was recently announced that Kate Winslet had joined the cast alongside Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang.

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