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Aquaman: Nailing The Film's Underwater Hairstyles Proved To Be A Struggle

The first "Aquaman" movie may not have received an overwhelmingly warm reception from critics when it was released in 2018. Still, its CGI spectacle and Jason Momoa's performance were a wonder to behold for many viewers. "Aquaman" constructed a breathtaking underwater world for its Atlantean characters to traverse, which is something of a monumental challenge in and of itself. But as it turns out, making everyone's hair look realistically submerged in water was one of the trickiest parts for the effects team.

"You can get a lot of strands going their own direction but you also get a lot of hair that kind of stays clumped together when it moves around," visual effects expert Jeff White told Cartoon Brew in 2018. "All of that was taken into account in terms of the tools that we were building out for doing underwater hair simulation." Despite this process and careful planning, it wasn't easy for anyone involved. "On top of that, it is never just 'push the button' and you run real physics and then it looks good. You can very easily get to not very flattering hair poses and looks when you just run the simulation," White added.

Adding to this difficulty was a distinct look that "Aquaman" director James Wan wanted his characters to have, which absolutely included what their hair should look like while underwater. This required some clever inventiveness on the part of the effects team.

Aquaman's effects team had to create new tools for underwater hair

During the interview with Cartoon Brew, Jeff White revealed that the "Aquaman" effects team had to think outside the box when it came to delivering underwater hair effects for the film. Part of this process involved completely updating the visual effects tools they had previously developed, including a specific hairstyle visual tool they had made for "Warcraft."

"Underwater hair definitely required some new tools for us in terms of getting much finer control over the way that the hair clumps together, what sticks together and what flows free, and then being able to run hair sims in multiple passes," White said. "We'd lay down a base simulation to get the right overall shape, but then we'd go in and pick out strands of hair to have it separate from the main mass."

Compounding this issue is that even when they'd get realistic hair physics, it didn't look quite heroic enough for director James Wan, so many handcrafted hair effects went into the process. It sounds like a long and arduous process for the effects team, but it's one that paid off. The underwater world of "Aquaman" and how its characters looked and reacted in that world is arguably some of the most visually stunning content in the film.