PRODUCTION ALL TOO CLEAR
10,000 years.” Thus, the idea to make a film called All Too Clear was born. With the idea ready to be executed, the next step was to find the appropriate filming technology that would allow them to film the mussels, which can thrive at depths of over 200 meters. Melnick and Drebert investigated the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) market to meet the challenge of underwater wildlife filmmaking. However, most units had inadequate cameras or were large work-class ROVs for scientific expeditions. “Scientists have been using ROVs, these underwater drones, for a long time – we’ve seen them out in the field. But their cameras are total crap,” remarks Melnick. “There are a few companies around that make these ROVs in Canada, and I kept talking with their engineering people, but they don’t see the value of putting cinema-quality cameras in them – they’re used to inspect the bottom of boats and look at pipes – and other highly uninteresting things.” They ended up selecting the Boxfish Luna because of its incredible Sony A7 SIII camera for low-light filming. They were also impressed with the drone's extended battery life and the ability to control camera settings from the surface. Furthermore, the capacity of the Boxfish Luna to travel in any direction opened up opportunities for filming moving wildlife or capturing smooth pan shots. “It’s basically an underwater enclosure that divers would use, but with a drone on the back of it that you can fly around,” explains Melnick. “You have total control of the camera, which is amazing – so it’s not just a GoPro down there. There’s a fibre optic tether that lets
us get uncompressed, Raw 4K images on the surface. We can make all the camera adjustments you would normally make while filming above water from the surface control station. “Unlike divers, the Luna can be underwater for many hours at a time, at depths of up to 500 meters, even in extremely cold water. The costs are also considerably less than a dive team,” continues Melnick. “We’ve spent more than 100 days filming underwater for a fraction of the cost of a traditional underwater shoot. “There is a steep learning curve and the system is not nearly as mature as the aerial drones we’re used to using, but I really think this is a revolution in underwater filmmaking. “We’ve been able to film numerous wildlife behaviours that have never been captured on camera before, including lake whitefish spawning, which is of great interest to our scientific partners. If we can understand how these animals spawn, we might be able to take actions to help them survive the mussel invasion.” Quagga mussels are about the size of an adult human thumb, so while fishing them out is possible, it’s not very practical
– especially when you consider the speed at which the stock appears to be replenishing. “We haven’t really found a way to use them as a resource and none of our fish in the Great Lakes have evolved to eat them,” adds Melnick. “So, once they’re adults, there’s nothing really that can make use of them. But there are scientists working on methods to control them, such as a big steamroller-like crusher that’s pulled behind a boat, copper- based pesticides, and even genetic engineering. We’re following these efforts in All Too Clear . They are probably never going away though, there’s too many of them. So just like climate change, we’re going to have to find a way to adapt to them being here forever.” In June, while filming with the ROV, the team found a shipwreck, believed to be a 144-foot steamship called the Africa, built in 1873 and sunk in 1895. The ship’s carcass is completely encrusted with quagga mussels, and the footage is spectacular – thanks in no small part to the eerie clarity of the water. All Too Clear is set to air in Canada on TVO in 2024, with subsequent broadcasts scheduled for Europe.
REMOTE CONTROL Filmmakers Zach Melnick and Yvonne Drebert used the Boxfish Luna drone to capture underwater footage
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