How do movies film underwater? – Film Stories – Film Stories

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Posted by James Harvey | Nov 17, 2022 | Feature
With Black Panther: Wakanda Eternally and the upcoming Avatar: The Means of Water each capturing extensively underwater, it appears filming moist is the brand new dry. However how do filmmakers do it, and with fashionable particular results know-how, why trouble taking the plunge in any respect?
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Anybody who’s ever tried to dry a telephone out in a bowl of rice is aware of that submerging delicate know-how in water hardly ever ends properly. And but, for nearly so long as we’ve been making movie cameras, we’ve been making an attempt to level them at stuff underwater. It’s just about as tough because it sounds, too. On prime of the apparent technical issues, capturing within the moist is normally a logistical nightmare, and an costly one at that.
So how do these loopy cats do it?
Effectively, the primary drawback with filming underwater is that, inevitably, cameras are simply brimming with electrical, which doesn’t are inclined to carry out all that properly in damp environments. They need to be sealed in opposition to excessive stress, and stay operable even in low-light situations whereas sporting a scuba masks.
The primary filmmakers to get round this drawback had been the Williamson brothers, who pioneered the primary business use of underwater movie in a silent adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Underneath the Sea all the best way again in 1916. Their innovation? A giant steel tube with a home on the top, or, to make use of the technical time period, a “photosphere.”
This tube hung off the aspect of a barge, then a digicam operator must climb down right into a 5-foot remark chamber and get filming. It seems like a number of effort, however the photographs of tropical fish and divers strolling on the ocean flooring are fairly mind-blowing for one thing revamped 100 years in the past.
The Williamsons’ Photosphere in motion (credit score: public area)
The subsequent correct go at aquatic cinema wouldn’t see the sunshine of day till 1954 (be good, there was lots happening) when, coincidentally, Walt Disney Studios additionally tailored Verne’s masterpiece of their first live-action film for the massive display screen. There’s a improbable behind-the-scenes documentary on this movie out there on YouTube, however lengthy story brief, it wasn’t the simplest image to shoot. By this level, digicam know-how had progressed sufficient that the crew might use fairly standard-looking equipment (with a bunch of additional housing and waterproofing, after all). However, technical features apart, the crew nonetheless needed to take care of moray eels, sharks, experimental diving gear and, bizarrely, an absence of daylight of their capturing location off the Bahamas.
It’s onerous sufficient to movie underwater when the forged are canonically sporting diving fits, however whereas buying gills by means of a genetic mutation is fairly handy for a personality in a film, it turns the entire filming course of right into a little bit of a nightmare. Even right now, actors overwhelmingly favour lungs, and so they are inclined to get a bit treasured about with the ability to breathe, thanks very a lot.
There’s a cause Waterworld by accident grew to become the most costly film of all time on its launch in 1995, and it wasn’t to steer Kevin Costner to drink his personal wee. With hurricane warnings, destroyed units and Costner’s stunt double virtually misplaced at sea, filming on water was harmful sufficient, not to mention underneath it. And that’s earlier than the movie’s stunt coordinator, Norman Howell, suffered compression illness from the few underwater photographs within the film, and needed to be shipped to a Honolulu hospital for a couple of days.
Kevin and Jeanne simply heard it’s time to movie the underwater bits
With Waterworld’s notoriously uneven manufacturing, it’s a miracle anybody’s instructed filming underwater since. However even when all the things goes in response to plan, capturing within the moist is hardly a stroll within the park. The fourth instalment within the Potter franchise, Goblet of Hearth, was thought of nigh unfilmable earlier than Mike Nichols took up the director’s mantle, not least due to the prolonged underwater sequence slap-bang in the course of it.
Maybe as a result of a Scottish loch appears lots much less inviting than the Hawaiian coast, Potter producers elected to not submerge their younger forged in an actual lake, and constructed a pleasant indoor one for them to make use of as a substitute. However large purpose-built swimming pools don’t come low cost, and at sixty sq. toes with a capability of as much as two million litres (the biggest of its variety in Europe) this one was pricier than most.
And that’s earlier than you even begin capturing the factor. In a recent interview with GQ, Daniel Radcliffe revealed that in filming for the second process the crew produced a median of seven seconds of usable footage every day, always stopping to work out technical issues, or to manage that anathema to speedy movie manufacturing, oxygen.
So why trouble? All of it appears a little bit of a faff, proper? And with fashionable CGI getting fairly nifty (it’s wonderful what they’ll do with computer systems as of late), who can blame a film like James Wan’s Aquaman for abandoning the underwater digicam housing for a blue display screen and an octopus taking part in the drums?
Effectively, the outcomes, it appears, communicate for themselves. Regardless of popping out in 2005, one thing like Goblet of Hearth holds up impressively properly by mixing underwater pictures with CGI. And it’s no accident that Ryan Coogler’s newest Black Panther flick has seemingly damaged Marvel’s run of dodgy particular results by filming its underwater sequences in a fish tank. 1954’s 20,000 Leagues and 1995’s Waterworld, in the meantime, nonetheless look unbelievable, even with out a lot of the computing energy of later flicks.
Which brings us proper as much as the trendy day, and James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Means of Water.
From what we’ve seen to this point, it appears like a number of the movie takes place down the place it’s wetter (Zoe Saldana just lately revealed she held her breath for almost five minutes at a time to get the aquatic scenes proper). If nothing else, it appears Cameron is seeking to flex his VFX muscle mass as soon as once more by tackling a water-based movie, and the mix of CG with an actual water tank is presumably a key a part of that.
So what’s the takeaway? I suppose the massive one is that filming underwater is bloody tough. However perhaps that’s a part of the explanation filmmakers preserve coming again to it. It’s the ‘how on earth did they do this?’ impact, the identical thrill we get watching Tom Cruise strap right into a jet or throw himself off a cliff.
If it’s to not grandiose, we might paraphrase JFK right here: we don’t do these items as a result of they’re simple. We do them as a result of they’re onerous. And, generally, moist.

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