Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Project Category

In Production





Outpost VFX Producer

Caitlin Gilbert

Outpost VFX Supervisor

Laurent Joel Gillet

Project Overview

“Outpost’s work on Avatar: The Last Airbender consisted mainly of the epic Aang and King Bumi battle sequence; we built an entire maelstrom of earth and airbending FX,” Outpost VFX Producer Caitlin Gilbert says as she details the scope of work the team undertook for season 1 of the Netflix adaptation.

“This was a great project to work on for the complex FX that was involved, from the concrete look of breaking rocks to the more subjective look of air movement,” Outpost VFX Supervisor, Laurent Joel Gillet adds.

Episode four introduces us to the powerful earthbender Bumi, King of Omashu and a figure of Aang’s past. Throughout their reunion, Bumi tests the Avatar’s airbending abilities, ultimately leading to a one-on-one duel between the two.

Gilbert says:

“This was an extremely heavy FX-sequence complete with earth, air and waterbending, and it presented a slew of creative challenges for our team to overcome."

“Our CG team, led by VFX Supervisor Laurent Joel Gillet and CG Supervisor Pascale Etangsale, rose to the challenge and we’re all incredibly proud of the results," Gilbert continues.

Working alongside Executive Producer Jabbar Raisani and Overall VFX Supervisor Marion Spates, the team set to work in establishing the look and behaviour of airbending. “When it came to the airbending, we were briefed on creating something that would be similar to the look of air around a jet engine,” Gilbert explains. “It was in this sequence that the airbending look was developed to then be used throughout the rest of the series.”

Gillet adds: “The airbending look was a challenge as we don’t see air movement in the real world, only elements flying through it. We needed to find ways of making that motion visible. The director and client-side production team had a very clear idea of where they wanted to go with it which made it a lot easier for us to translate those ideas into effects on screen.”

Some of the bigger FX elements of the sequence would also involve earthbending. Though Bumi may be over 100 years old, he is still considered one of the most powerful earthbenders of the four nations. “We built several rock assets that were summoned from the ground, launched through the air and shatter into pieces, as well as destroying the arena roof and creating various sand elements,” Gilbert recalls.

“Some of the simulations we created were very heavy multi-layered sims where each layer interacts or collides with the others,” Gillet adds. “A good example of this is the shot where Bumi splits a rock into two before shredding it to shards and sends towards Aang. It was a very creative process and heavy on the FX side. At some point or another, almost every FX artist in Montreal worked on the sequence at one moment in time.”

“While developing the characteristics of the earthbending, we looked at many different types of ground and soil,” Gillet explains. “We started originally with a very sandy look with buried hard rocks, but we ended up going towards a more amalgamated dry sand look which crumbles as it breaks. The rocks themselves needed to look like compacted dry soil which partially crumbles as they were thrown around.”

Another important aspect of Outpost’s work on Avatar: The Last Airbender was the arena environment itself. “Our Environments team did a lot of work on the arena, using DMP to create the arena walls and ceiling while also supporting with shot specific details like the ceiling cracks which appear during the battle,” Gilbert adds.

“We’re incredibly proud of our work on Avatar: The Last Airbender,” Gilbert concludes. “With direction and collaboration from Jabbar and Marion, we were able to push ourselves in terms of our FX work, and we feel the results speak for themselves.”

Watch the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix now.