The largest VFX film Wētā FX has ever worked on has a total shot count of 4,001 (including omits / final omits).
There are 3,289 shots in the final film and Wētā FX worked on 3,240 VFX shots, 2,225 of which were water shots.
In fact, only two shots in the entire film do not contain any visual effects at all.
Wētā FX partnered with Lightstorm Entertainment from the beginning, collaborating on new technology and techniques to fully realise James Cameron’s vision.
Quite aside from the sheer volume of work created for Avatar: The Way of Water, the project necessitated a range of never-before-seen innovations.
A new water simulation toolset and pipeline, many years in the making, earned the team a Visual Effects Society Award. This toolset was of course instrumental to a project where two-thirds of the shots featured water in some form.
From underwater performance capture to multi-coupled simulations, this system enabled believable underwater motion as well as complex interaction between thin-film, sprays, splashes and water volumes with skin, air, hair props and costume.
A new strain-based facial performance system was developed to uncouple the deep musculature within an actor’s face from the skin to better represent their performance and allow fine-tuning and manipulation post-capture. This enabled the team to create believable digital performances of actors like Stephen Lang as Quaritch and of Sigourney Weaver playing Kiri, essentially a teenage Na’Vi version of herself.
A new cable-cam eyeline system with small monitors showing the facial performance of CG characters at the correct position in 3D space, allowed live action performers to accurately interact with and react to CG characters on stage.
To give the director an accurate blended view of live action and CG elements in real time while filming, a new ‘depth compositing’ workflow using machine learning was developed. It allowed James Cameron to see a pixel-perfect composition of plate and CG elements together in-camera in real time with accurate occlusions, including simulated elements such as water.
The total amount of data stored for this film was 18.5 petabytes – 18.5 times the amount used on the original Avatar or the equivalent of some 19,000 desktop computers.
As a tidbit for those who have ever waited around for a render to finish, the longest render time for one shot was 13.6 million threaded hours – the five most intensive shots to render took a combined 51.6 million threaded hours.