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Sport Science: Avatar

We've covered a lot of ground with our Sport Science segments over the years. We've been on fields, pitches, diamonds, courts, and in the ring. But our latest project takes us somewhere brand new: underwater! ESPN's parent company, Disney, asked us to create a segment in the lead-up to the brand new blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water, and of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Now, we know, this isn't our traditional Sport Science project. But, given James Cameron was at the helm, it was only natural that the actors in the latest Avatar film were going to have to push some boundaries. In order to shoot long scenes underwater, the actors trained in free diving, and learned to hold their breath for long stretches at a time. While it doesn't jump off the screen like a highlight reel dunk, this is still a skill that requires serious physical and mental effort, and the science is fascinating. Before we could get to work on the script, we spoke with free diving instructor Kirk Krack to better understand the training method and process, and researched more about the making of the film. After all of this prep, we were able to create one of the most exciting Sports Science pieces yet.

Our 3D models were especially important in this piece, for two reasons. One, we didn't have the same level of highlight-reel footage that we usually have when showcasing athletes. Two, it's not as familiar as a skillset for viewers, so the visualization of the techniques involved became even more important. The 3D models also allowed us to better demonstrate what was going on *inside* the body, and to show how oxygen and carbon dioxide flow through the body while breathing (and diving). We also utilized a red/blue color scheme to give more visual cues to the audience within these 3D graphics, further simplifying the breathing process.

2D graphics also became necessary to reinforce the data, and to contextualize the behind-the-scenes footage. There were a lot of numbers related to dive times and lung capacity, as well as some terminology that our viewers might not be familiar with. We may not have needed ball trackers or spot shadows in this piece, but that didn't reduce the need to clearly provide on-screen information.

If you've read the Friday Five, you know how much we love a good blockbuster, so this project was incredibly exciting. We were able to bring our Sport Science flair into the world of Avatar -- and hopefully this won't be the last time we get to expand beyond the playing field.


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