“Russ and I work together a lot and we’re kind of like an old married couple,” said James Cameron. He’s talking – and is on a Zoom call with – the cinematographer Russell Carpenterwho like Cameron Titanic and reunited with the director Avatar: The Way of WaterFor Cameron, who spent years developing new technology before he even began principal photography for the film, Carpenter was an important foundational force. “Russ’ greatest gift as a cinematographer is the aesthetic he brings to film,” Cameron said. “Technically, I get up and he always makes me think, ‘What are we trying to say here? How are we in the mood?'”
first time didn’t work avatarwhich was Carpenter’s first time lighting a virtual environment — “but after a few days,” he says, “I thought I could ride a bike.” Cinematography avatar The film takes place in many stages, from the lighting to the live actors jack championThe one who played Spider was adjusted after the Weta VFX team finished their work. Thanks to a suite of tools called Gazebo, Cameron and Carpenter could see a sort of rough-cut live-action shot combined with the motion capture work they’d already done, merging the two technological worlds during filming and letting them see to their characters to interact in front of them. As Cameron puts it, it took “a lot of wizardry” to get there. “However, once the fusion is done, there is a lot of freedom,” Carpenter added. “There’s a lot of room for change.”
Below, Carpenter and Cameron break down the creation of some of the film’s iconic scenes, from the underwater adventure to the intense third-act showdown between the Na’vi and their human attackers. Some of the processes are complex—virtual rasters, giant lights in place of the sun, actors filming their performances twice—and others involve technology as old as film itself.
early scene way of water Return to the jungles and mountains of Pandora, where the first film was filmed, though some locations — like this camp that housed both beauties and human rebels — are new.for a carpenter without a job avatar, It’s a different learning curve to get used to.
James Cameron: Russ and I have a shorthand from…it goes back to true liebut Titanic. We are pursuing aesthetics. What is our palette? What are we subconsciously trying to say to our audience? Is it bright? is it cool? Is it dark? Is it moody? Honorable? Does it glow? There’s also some color palette stuff that was devised in the first movie that Russ didn’t have a hand in. So I think, Russ, part of it for you is just the learning curve of understanding what works the first time and then where to take it and move on from there.
Russell Carpenter: Everywhere has a color scheme. I lit the highland camp scene returning from the Na’vi raid. We discussed where the light would come from and what the fire would look like in the tent. But also because this is a part of the environment of the Na’vi people, but it is also affected by the technology of the biological laboratory——
Cameron: Yes, Biolab, the people there, the Project Avatar people. So you create mixed light. I remember you had a lot of blue rim lights.
carpenter: Yeah, it’s cute because there’s a nice conversation between Neytiri and Sully, and they’re right outside the tent. So you get this beautiful blue light that’s influenced by some of the light that we, let’s say, our good humans bring to that area. However, this also removes the warmth of the fire. So, Jim always works that way to put a lot of color in his scenes.
The sun is the main element of visual effects and story way of water, Especially when the daily eclipse creates a dramatic nighttime showdown in Act Three.Here, it’s a tender backdrop as the Sullys fly off in search of a new home – but as avatar Movies, it’s more complicated than it looks.
Cameron: Russ, what is your primary solar element? I do not remember.
carpenter: Well, it really depends.We ran out of space on that huge set of sea dragons [the large ship at the center of the final action sequence] used to be. So we used a very powerful element and it’s called the ARRI Max. You have to make it look like a sun, but we have other lights clustered around it that strike strategically. It’s just part of the logistics. We’re just looking for space to return your light far enough to make a convincing sun.
cameron: The sun is very important, because the sun has many flavors. Russ and I had a heated discussion about “How late is it today? What is our key fill rate? What is the color dynamic from key side to fill side?” So if you’re in the middle of the day, there’s not much color dynamics, and you’ll see a little bit of blue in the sky, but if you’re later in the day, it’s really going to be thousands of Kelvin. So we’re going to have a long discussion about this, and we can actually preview it in Gazebo. Because we use sync cams for pretty much everything, because we want to compose based on what the final shot will look like.