Still showing a sea lion looking at the large underwater IMAX camera used for making the movie Under the Sea 3DUnder the Sea 3D is more underwater eye candy from seaworthy cinematographer/filmmaker Howard Hall (Deep Sea 3D, Into the Deep 3D). Narrated by Jim Carrey (who doesn’t seem too enthused to be reading some of the lame jokes in the script), Under the Sea 3D is a series of amazing shots of the strange life that lives in the Great Barrier Reef and the seas near Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (the “Coral Triangle”). It has brief insight into Australian Sea Lions, Green Sea Turtles, Great White Sharks and more exotic creatures like Sea Snakes, Leafy Sea Dragons and the bizarre and fascinating Cuttlefish. There’s a bit about the impact of environmental damage on these ecosystems as an attempt to give the film a sort of throughline. But really it’s just about awesome shots of sea life. At only 40 minutes, it’s perfect for the attention spans of the tots — I was left wanting more.

Howard Hall and team making Under the Sea 3D movieThough, with the hardship that goes into an underwater 3D IMAX film, it’s a wonder they were able to gather even 40 minutes. When you think about how much of nature photography involves patience and research in the first place, and then add in the expenses of working with mechanical equipment underwater, the transporting of that equipment to remote ocean locations and the fact that, in the 3D IMAX format — essentially dual 70mm cameras — a reel is just 3 minutes, it’s impressive. (I can only imagine how many underwater scenes had just started to develop when the camera ran out of film.)

As far as the use of 3D goes, there wasn’t anything novel. Some of the most effective shots were above the water, with the sea forming a plane that seemed to fill the lower parts of the IMAX theater. Because the camera weighs 1300 lbs (though neutrally buoyant underwater, it is still difficult to adjust framing because it has such momentum), I’m not surprised most shots were fairly static. The best were ones where the camera floated behind the subjects as they moved along the ocean floor, like a third person hovering video game perspective.

production still from IMAX 3D movie, mixing session for the film Under the SeaThe big star of the movie is not the 3D, but the sound design, which really brings the visuals to life (and must’ve been wholly invented). There’s something a bit inauthentic about Foley-ing a nature film — but it’s really good Foley.

If you don’t have time to personally dive a barrier reef, Under the Sea 3D might be the next best thing. Especially recommended for kids; the ones in my audience never got tired of reaching out in an attempt to pet the 3D fish.

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Read Howard Hall’s production journal