What Filming ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Actually Looked Like on Set (EXCLUSIVE)

In this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” from its upcoming digital release, the film’s cast and crew reveal the multiple innovative methods they deployed to shoot the film, as the production team quite literally learned how to work vis-à-vis the way of water.

Going from land to water was a big adjustment for the cast. Stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington and Kate Winslet discuss having to learn to regulate their bodies and breathing within this unfamiliar layer of the set so they could properly capture the essence of Cameron’s vision.

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“There’s not just the physical challenge of holding your breath,” says Winslet, who plays Ronal in the film. “There’s then the added challenge of acting out a scene underwater where everything is very different. You’re having to imagine coral reefs; you’re having to picture other Na’vi swimming around you. Then you have the challenge of your movements are very, very different underwater — finding that serenity and that calm.”

The actors swam in performance capture wetsuits and goggles around fully submerged sets. The medium made actors’ movements more fluid, allowing their characters’ actions to appear far more realistic than they would have with the use of wire suspension systems.

As for the technical part of filming, the crew created a series of decks using unistrut systems hooked up to gantries and chain motors that could be lifted out of the water. Sets could be built above the water and then lowered down when it came time to film. The creation of such adaptable systems allowed for immense mobility of the set, allowing platforms to be titled to allow for better interaction between actor and animated topography.

Thanks to these intensive efforts from cast and crew, “Avatar: The Way of Water” — which debuts on digital on March 28 — was able to emulate the spirit of the sea. “If we tried to do this any other way instead of being legit, it wouldn’t be a James Cameron film,” said Worthington.

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