Total immersion: Wētā Digital’s VFX toolset on Avatar: The Way of Water

Pipeline promise

Manuka, Wētā’s proprietary renderer was used to render the outputs of Loki and other tools in a physically based manner. “The outputs of all those different solvers were collected together in the render graph and passed to Manuka for the for the final render,” says Stomakhin.
“Almost every tool in Wētā Digital’s toolbox was used on the film in some capacity in some way,” says Allan Poore. “This includes Barbershop, which is a much more artist-friendly grooming tool and much more physically based both in terms of fur and hair.”
According to Poore, Unity is working to ‘productise’ it and hopes to deliver within the first half of this year out to the public.
“There’s also a tool called Eddy, which you can use outside or inside of Nuke, that you can use it to create volumetric effects much faster and quicker without having to go back and do all the full-on rendering within a scene,” he adds. “You can do them separately and composite them on top of that. There was also a bunch of nodes for deep compositing, which is another thing that we’re working to productise. That will allow depth perception in post, where you can change things like fog layers that may occlude certain objects. It’s very powerful and quick, and doesn’t require full re-renderings of the scenes.”

Other performance enhancement tools were used on the film. “There’s Gazeebo which is a real time renderer that they used to do a lot of pre-work and figure out what’s going to look like beforehand to make decisions,” says Poore. There’s new facial work that also came into play here with the facial system. There’s a whole tool chest from the many years this film has been in the making.”

Avatar: The Way of Water is now the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time (with over $2 billion at the box office at the time of writing). Including the Emerging Technology Award, the film won nine trophies over the course of the VES ceremony, with the Depth Comp and Facial System from Unity Wētā Tools also recognised.
The stunning film has just been recognised by BAFTA for Special Visual Effects, and has four Academy Award nominations (as well as the VFX Oscar, it’s up for Best Picture, Best Production Design, and Best Sound). It’s obvious that all that work ht

Nor is it the only movie that that Wētā has worked on the past few years. “This technology is not limited to a specific show, it is definitely reusable and you’ll see more,” promises Stomakhin.

Read more about Unity

See more about Avatar on Fired By Design

Read papers published by Alexey Stomakhin

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