Definition September 2023 - Web


Award-winning Liquid Motion shares the amazing story behind one of its most memorable shoots T he captivating universe of underwater cinematography has mesmerised audiences ever filmed fluorescence professionally in the wild. The team had its mission. Guy and Anita each dived into Changing COLOUR ITSELF IMAGES Liquid Motion ® & Wayne MacWilliams

for decades. But few have pushed its boundaries quite like Guy and Anita Chaumette, the visionary minds behind acclaimed underwater film production company Liquid Motion. With more than 30 years in the game, they have picked up awards galore for game-changing work in film and TV. Perhaps their most seminal effort was the journey leading to the creation of an underwater fluorescence phenomenon. To set the scene, the year was 2004 and the Chaumettes had an idea for an underwater film. The pitch was simple – why, in a vast, blue world where the hues fade with depth, do the inhabitants display such a vivid array of colours? Working alongside marine biologists, the team captured wondrous footage of marine animals communicating using ultraviolet light. Together with the scientists, they revealed the fascinating ways marine creatures switch UV and polarisation patterns on and off to exchange messages. This was a challenge in itself, however a memory of fluorescent corals in New Caledonia years earlier resurfaced for Guy. Delving deeper, the team realised no one had

testing prototype lights for underwater fluorescence — a different process from phosphorescence or bioluminescence, in that fluorescence involves absorbing one colour of light and emitting another hue. To capture the spectacle of marine animals changing colours whenever exposed to near-UV light, they enlisted the help of expert Dr Charles Mazel, who was not only researching fluorescence, but also designing lighting equipment. Crafting prototype underwater kit became the focus — a light of precise wavelength and filters to unveil the ‘true’ colours, and screen out the UV. Filters were needed for masks, camera, spare lights and housing so they could see and film these ‘actual’ colours. Dr Mazel joined the team in Bonaire, lending them his first prototypes for the ambitious shoot, on which the team witnessed an astonishing display. But shooting fluorescence underwater was a formidable challenge. Achieving professional footage required a lot of light, often necessitating a crew of at least three on a night dive, spreading the light out for best coverage in wide angle. The equipment was effective but bulky, requiring meticulous preparation. This included stuffing the prototype with cotton wool and tissue to stop the elements getting in the light housing. Yellow filters were put on masks and camera lenses to counter an excess of blue reflected from the reef, enabling the lens to capture just the fluorescence. Each shot required blind coordination. Working in near-complete darkness, the team manoeuvred heavy equipment

underwater, repeatedly taking the filters on and off to get the shots of fluorescent versus white light – all the time mindful to avoid touching the coral reef. Shooting in pitch-black water, only able to see what was fluorescing, team coordination was critical to executing the shot before moving to the next set. Adding to the workload, the filmmakers were experimenting with wavelengths of exciter lamps. In total, six gruelling weeks were spent capturing scenes of marine life in all their glory. Night after night, weighed down by gear, the Chaumettes kept plunging into the deep, capturing scenes of unreal beauty and defying the obstacles that stood in their way. The results sparked the curiosity of researchers worldwide. Dismissed as a side effect previously, fluorescence has now revealed its profound significance thanks to the efforts of the team. The years following the filmmakers’ breakthrough were spent in the South Pacific, further decoding underwater colour and unravelling the secrets of fish vision, communication and the pivotal role of fluorescence for marine animals. This culminated in an awe- inspiring eight-minute film that brought underwater colour communication to the big screen. Garnering accolades and captivating audiences, the short led to a full underwater film series exclusive to National Geographic, airing on TV screens worldwide.




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