How Underwater Scenes Are Shot for Movies and TV

USA News

  • Movie cast and crews have to rethink nearly every aspect of filmmaking when shooting underwater.
  • “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022) shot scenes in a diving tank for more control.
  • “Aquaman” (2018) shot its underwater sequences on dry land and added water qualities with CG.
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Underwater scenes are incredibly difficult to shoot, as the conditions mean the cast and crew have to rethink nearly every aspect of making a movie. While shooting in the open ocean provides the most realism, productions have very little control over water conditions and safety, which is why “The Shallows” (2016) shot some of its underwater stunts with Blake Lively in a more controllable tank. But with today’s sleek cameras and advanced scuba gear, “The Meg” (2018) was still able to film with trained stunt divers in rough waters.

When it came to “Thirteen Lives” (2022), shooting in water tanks was much safer than in real underwater caves. But when building the cave sets, the film’s production designer had to forgo foam and wood for steel and concrete, while the cinematographer had to balance getting compelling footage with portraying the distinct choppiness and murkiness of water.

To avoid those intricacies, other films like “The Shape of Water” (2017) and “Aquaman” (2018) instead filmed the underwater scenes on dry land and added underwater qualities using lighting tricks and CG. No matter where underwater scenes are filmed, they won’t fully work unless you pay attention to every little factor, ranging from how Lupita Nyong’o’s outfit would look underwater in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022) to how The Rock’s boots would impact his breathing in “San Andreas” (2015) and how Jason Momoa’s hair would flow with the current in “Aquaman.”

Watch “Thirteen Lives” on Prime Video and bonus features on X-Ray.

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