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Avatar Netflix DP Michael Balfry Reveals Why Firebenders Were So Hard to Bring to Life (Exclusive)

Russ Milheim, THE DIRECT

March 01, 2024

Michael Balfry, the director of photography for Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, revealed that firebenders were the most difficult type of bender for the show to bring to life.

In an exclusive interview with The Direct’s Russ Milheim, Avatar: The Last Airbender director of photography (DP) Michael Balfry revealed why firebending was the most difficult form of bending to bring to life convincingly.

The DP shared that the key challenge in filming the firebenders was "trying to make [firebending look] natural:"

"I would say firebending. Trying to make it [look] natural... When we're filming a fireplace or a campfire… we don't always use real fire for practicality [reasons]. If you're inside, you can’t have a flame bar. So you use lighting [while] trying to make sure [it looks real]. And people will see where it's fake and not fake. So trying to keep it subtle is always the challenge."

On set, the filmmaker also explained how they’d “[have] lights in their hands” to “add just a little practical light to glow up their face:”

"The firebending would be mostly the lighting. When their hands are glowing, we would add just a little practical light just to glow up their face, again, to sell that credibility to give effects something to work with. We had lights in their hands that would glow, and then they would just build the flames out of that."

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