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UNDER THE SEA 3D

Filming Challenges
Production Journal: January 11, 2008. No matter how carefully you might plan, anticipating every imaginable contingency, nature often has a way of sending a large white pelican soaring high overhead to drop an enormous deposit of wet and pungent humility right on top of your head.

No pun intended, but securing the best possible footage of this underwater panorama requires, foremost, an ability to go with the flow.

"Animals have free will. Some days are great, and others are utterly useless,” Howard acknowledges. Often, creatures he planned to film during a period that should have been their standard mating or feeding time did not exhibit the expected behavior. They shied from the dive crew and, regardless of how long he and his colleagues patiently waited, simply did not return. Locations that had teemed with life during scouting dives mere months ago could be curiously calm on a second visit.

Unpredictable weather and shifting tides frequently produced currents so strong they nearly swept the camera away or completely obscured visibility. Above the water line, the boat was once engulfed by a swarm of bugs so dense it was impossible to reload film. Another time, following a successful session, the camera housing was opened to reveal a live moth that had been inexplicably trapped inside. It wasn't until several anxious days later that Howard learned the insect had unfortunately spent most of its time on the camera port, right in front of the le ns, while the camera was running, and nearly ruined one of the team's best sequences.

If the agenda was set for one animal but something rarer presented itself, the team would abandon Plan A in favor of the more cinematically promising show, hoping to capture their original subject later. "It's impossible to know when the action happening in front of the camera is going to be an easy shot, reproducible any day of the week, or when catching a certain behavior on camera is a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Howard.

One typical day, the crew was focused on a Tiger Mantis Shrimp but, he recounts, "After an hour of false starts, it closed its den and went to bed.” They turned, instead, to a Wonderpus Octopus, and didn't emerge from the water until six hours later. At that point, the director had showered, dismantled his diving equipment and was looking forward to dinner and some rest when "o ne of the guides surfaced to say there was a Tiger Mantis Shrimp out of its den and digging a new hole. This is very unusual. I had never seen this happen. So, we were back in the water 15 minutes later.”

In a lifetime of wildlife cinematography, he has learned to seize his opportunities. "It pays to be ready for anything. Sometimes you get a lucky shot. But you can't get lucky unless you are down there trying.” Overall, the disappointing dives and wasted hours were far surpassed by exceptional action and moments of sheer exhilaration. Says Howard, "I think everyone involved would agree that it has been well worth the effort. ‘Under the Sea 3D' is visually dazzling. Seeing, in IMAX 3D, the hard and soft corals surrounded by myriad species of fish in a way that is near virtual reality is an amazing experience. Audiences will not be cold and wet, but what they'll see when they look through those goggles is exactly what we saw through the dive mask. It is my hope that there will be times they won't know what they are looking at until it is in their laps.

"The most important thing I believe people will get from seeing this film, aside from being entertained, is that they will emerge with a sense that these places and animals are valuable and worth protecting. They're part of our legacy.”

Read Howard Hall's production journal at: www.howardhall.com/currentpro.html IMAX is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporati

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