by John Serba | The Grand Rapids Press
Monday February 16, 2009, 7:54 AM
Natural wonders: “Under the Sea 3D” is loaded with remarkable underwater footage
It’s a scene of startling beauty: Countless garden eels, some more than 6 feet long, rise out of their ocean-floor burrows and, as they waver in the ocean current, they resemble a field of tall grasses in a gentle breeze.
This shot, from the new IMAX documentary “Under the Sea 3D,” now showing at Celebration North, was costly, time-consuming and required mountains of patience.
“Every time we’d turn the camera on, they’d go down into their holes,” said director Howard Hall, calling from Detroit, where he was promoting the film. “We had to turn it off and on to acclimate them to the noise. At $60 a second, which is what it costs to run the IMAX 3D camera, it’s an expensive proposition. In the film, you can see the eels slowly going down, and they’re reacting to the camera running.”
“Under the Sea 3D” is showing on IMAX at Celebration North. Find show times in the Movie Guide published daily in the Press or search on the MLive movies page.
The success of Hall’s 2006 “Deep Sea 3D” film, which grossed $37 million on domestic IMAX screens, opened the door for a follow-up project, which he undertook with his wife, producer Michele Hall. They hauled the ridiculously impractical, 1,300-pound IMAX 3D camera — which only shoots three minutes at a time before needing a reload — to remote locations near Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, shooting 10 hours of film for the 40-minute final product.
He waited six hours to film a stonefish, camouflaged in the sand, lunging at its prey.
“Having that kind of patience is probably a genetic defect that I’ve got,” he said. “I can understand why other people wouldn’t bother. I spent 350 hours underwater making the film, and a lot of that is just waiting for things to happen.
Howard, who has had a 30-year career filming numerous underwater documentaries for TV and the big screen, considers himself, first and foremost, an oceanographer. He said anticipating the animals’ behavior and understanding the ecosystems is the expertise he relies upon most while shooting.
There’s also an exploratory element to his work; documenting wildlife in obscure places means capturing on film creatures nobody has ever seen before.
“Some species in the film haven’t even been identified yet,” he said. “The little shark that crawls along the bottom is an undescribed species.”