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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 22, 2010 at 10:07 AM

“Oceans”: How they got those shots

If you’re like me, you’ll leave the lovely undersea documentary “Oceans” with one question in your mind: “How’d they do that?” (Actually, an interesting thing about the film is how quickly you forget that there’s a camera involved; it feels like you’re peacefully alone with the fish. And Pierce Brosnan.) The Los Angeles Times has an interview with one of the film’s underwater cinematographers, Erik Borjeson, explaining some of its techniques.

It wasn’t easy to keep up with the fishes. “We had high-speed camera rockets to have the camera move as fast as dolphins underwater,” said Borjeson. “We had what we called a camera torpedo that was towed behind a boat to move with the schools of dolphins. Above surface, we had unmanned mini-helicopters with the camera remotely controlled. We had specifically invented and constructed a gyroscope to be able to shoot with a steady horizon while moving through waves on the open sea. So we’re talking about a lot of inventions, constructions and special equipment. It was crazy and very visionary.”

And he describes how they use something called rebreather diving, in which exhaled air is filtered, reoxygenated and then breathed again — thus no bubbles headed to the surface to betray the cinematographer’s presence. This made it easier to film a mass of about 100 hammerhead sharks, off the coast of Costa Rica. “Hammerheads can be really shy,” said Borjeson. Let’s hope.

A photographer swims with sea nettle jellyfish in “Oceans” (Photo courtesy Disneynature)

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