Sunday, May 14, 2006

My perfect storm - boxed

Have you ever seen rain falling on the sea during a storm? Perhaps you have. Ever seen it from underneath the water? Well I needed about 8 seconds of this particular image for my film and to get it I built what I can only describe as a 'Water Box'. These are usually used for filming people's faces underwater while they are being drowned or tortured. (David Blaine's got his own ball-shaped one the lucky chap). I have no idea how the professional cinematography ones look but here's mine (see the pic below). Now doesn't it look professional? James Cameron would no doubt be proud.

It was real pleasure making the thing (except for cutting the hole in the box). I felt like a kid again rushing around building some weird construction in the garden. The only difference this time was that what I built had to be seriously reliable. See how my one and only camera sits precariously under all that water pressure? And imagine if that glass cracked? During testing there were a few Das Boot moments as water began to seep through the duck tape that holds the glass panel to the bottom of the box but thankfully it never became more than a trickle.
While I was working on the shot it occurred to me (yet again) how people who design camera mounts for music videos, Hollywood and Nature documentaries really have one of the best jobs in the world. You get to build all kinds of crazy stuff. It all has to be extremely flexible and bulletproof reliable - rather like building a weapon - but its all in the name of capturing life instead of killing it.

Filming through water is tough (but just look at beautiful ghostliness of it). Grubs and dirt fall down to the bottom and collect over the lens - and how does one catch a bug through half a metre of water? Perhaps that's why water in films is often far too clean. That and the fact that if you add something to cloud the water you lose visibility and contrast after a second or two. Then there's the magnification, the reflections and did I mention the focus?

Real rain was forecast but in the end it didn't arrive. As there's a hose-pipe ban in effect (Do they have hose-pipe bans in Poland? And how would you spell that?) I had to switch the most pathetic filmmaker's friend of all - the humble watering can - in order to get the shot. It took two of them working from a height to get it looking storm-natural.

I just played back the results. It isn't perfect but it works.

Tomorrow I need to create the inside of a nuclear missile. It is times like this that I seriously wonder if the film will be worth all the effort...


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