Builders were then brought in to actually construct physical models of Cole’s designs. Ben Proctor and Kevin Loo were among the leaders of the building teams, and they put together miniature renditions of the sets that were then later built to scale by Ed Symon. The sets were, one might imagine, rather stripped down in real life, as so much of “The Way of Water” was to be realized in animated form. Actors walked around on Cole’s and Symon’s sets wearing specialized facial cameras and motion-capture suits, interacting only with what practical parts of the set were required. The actual sky, water, Na’Vi, and physical textures were a matter of complex animation.
Cole was impressed with the years of work, and was astonished once it was built and working. The maruis were real, and the Sully porch was practical. Seeing the finished film, Cole was just as astonished as most audiences would be. He said:
“I was literally teary because I was like, ‘Oh my God, we have the reef village done!’ I mean, it’s never done, but this was our most difficult set to engineer. And we did it and then turned it over to Wētā FX.”
In taking 13 years to make, it seems every detail of “Avatar: The Way of Water” was given as much care and attention as the sets. The result, a viewer will find, is one of the more impressive techincal feats of visual effects in cinema history.