This really was a surprising encounter.
And I confess that when I saw him to appear out of the blue, I was scared, at the beginning.
I never bumped into something like that, not even on television.
I was making a documentary for RAI (the Italian National Television ) on the last voyage of the "Rainbow Warrior" (the famous " Greenpeace " ship, sunk by the French secret service in the harbour of Auckland - New Zealand - in 1985) and with my assistant we were diving on the seabed of the Poor Knights Islands for a few days.
These islands are a paradise for divers and hundreds of giant stingrays probably are the main attraction. At least until the meeting with this huge "underwater snake"...
Actually, I realized pretty quickly that this sea monster would not have devoured us because it was a huge colony of harmless, planktonic tunicates, belonging to the genus Pyrosoma: thousands of small, gelatinous organisms that gather together to form a translucent and hollow tube, open at one end only.
The extraordinary nature and fortune of my encounter stem primarily by the size and the "health" of this colony: it was at the height of its splendor, at the apex of its biological cycle.
One of the best moments I have ever experienced underwater.
If there is a thing I thought I would never realize in my life it certainly is a wedding video...
But never say never!
The occasion to contradict my certainty has been provided by two friends of mine, Fabio and Francesca, who, having fixed the date of their wedding, decided to turn to me to get the video of their best day.
Actually I did not think twice before enthusiastically accepting their proposal because, to be honest, it was not exactly a wedding like any other one...
And it is not not just because Fabio and Francesca decided to get married underwater (as many people do all over the world nowadays) that I accepted their offer with no hesitation: the fact is this wedding was meant to be (and it has been) a depth record wedding. At 60 metres below the sea surface!!! How could I miss such a great opportunity?!
Although this production certainly did not have any business purpose, actually from the technical point of view has requested a very meticulous management of the operations and the support of many other professional figures. First of all of the underwater ones.
Anyone with a little experience on SCUBA tanks and regulators knows very well that spending half an hour at a depth of 60 metres represents a quite long and challenging bottom time (this kind of dive is outside of recreational diving while definitely is a technical dive) but, at the same time, it is a very short time for shooting a well done wedding video.
It's one of those situation in which the "first take" absolutely need to be right...
The use of the rebreather – and I was among those divers who dived by this machine – certainly made things a little easier compared to traditional scuba diving system, but the fact remain that such a particular and demanding underwater production puts the underwater cameraman and his support team over against a series of problems and constraints that it is certainly worth investigating. Because they have a strong educational value, even for those who handle a videocamera only on dry land.
The first constraint the filmmaker must to face in this case is the absolute impossibility to go up and down, both for the protagonists of the viseo and himself.
Who already has a SCUBA diving license will consider it an obvious banality; but in case of such a deep dive – and this is not so known – even those slight "ups and downs", so frequent in recreational diving, are not allowed.
In videographic terms it means a filmmaker will never have the opportunity to repeat twice the same scene during the descent and ascent phases; and not only for having a better one, but also to get the classical shots and countershots to be use in the editing.
Yet, in my video "Deep wedding", shots and reverse shots are present, in particular in the initial phase of descent of the bride toward the sed bottom...
Don't think badly: I'm not the one who does not practise what he preaches. Especially because I care about my life!
Those shots and reverse shots, in the strict definition, are 'fake' because they do not film the same scene from opposite angles, but are (more or less) immediately following situations and therefore only "similar" since they are separated by a temporal break.
The difficulty completely lies in filming them in such a way that, once edited, they give the viewer that feeling of continuity and fluidity of the action which, actually, does not exist...!
To do this, the only possible way is having a very clear idea on the sequence of the scenes that will be shot during the dive, because - and I am going to say another banality that is, however, much less silly than it may seem - the ability to communicate underwater with the actors is reduced almost to zero.
Try to think how difficult it can be to record a scene without having the chance to tell your actors even only to move just a little more to the right or a little more to the left...
Obviously not everything can be planned "out of the water" before of the dive according to a detailed script. Do not forget that in technical dives, safety protocols always prevail over any other thing and therefore even the small, inevitable snags that arise during the dive invariably entail momentary stops of the shots and the modification of ...the script.
So, what can the underwater cameraman do? Simply he must build many small ways of escape. That is to say he must record a series of "wildcard" scenes which allow, during assembly, to get in and out the various framings of the movie at any time, providing the viewer with a series of cuts that are consistent with the story. A kind of aces in the hole you can pull off in moments of impasse. The descent rope, for example, is always equal to itself, at any depth, and once recorded in one or two sequences will prove to be a trusted friend you can rely on in the editing, several times. Like so the scenes with the air bubbles rising up to the surface or with the team divers' faces during the dive are valuable.
In fact, in such a situation, you can not forget to film the individual participants at the underwater wedding absolutely, because afterwards each of them will be able to solve a problem during the editing.
It is obvious that the filmmaker's attention will be focused on the couple, but I think it is interesting to highlight that in the case of this video "only" 50% of the whole footage has Fabio and Francesca as main subjects.
Paradoxically, in fact, just because I wanted to make a video of their wedding that was both engaging and exciting, I did not spend the whole dive with the lens pointing exclusively on them, without ever straying. If I had acted in this way the final result would have been the "classic", amateur, underwater video full of sequences as much long as boring, interrupted by inconsistent and confusing cuts.
Instead, already having a very precise idea of directing in my mind, a little more than 20 minutes of total footage (very few...) have made possible to achieve all in all a decent product (professionally speaking) and able to convey the excitement of such an extraordinary wedding.
I would like to reserve one last technical remark to the great professionalism of the divers who attended the event. It is known that one of the most dangerous enemies of the underwater cameramen and photographers is the suspension: well, being with 9 divers located at the depth of 60 meters on a sandy bottom for about half an hour and not find ourselves immersed in the "fog" is a remarkable achievement, without which I would not have been able to carry out the images of this video.
Long live the the newlyweds!
For further information on the deep wedding and dive technical data please click here
P.S. As Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson ... I added my little cameo at 04'07 ". ;)
I always dreamed of Antarctica, the South Pole!
The last great frontier of human exploration on this Planet.
Life has been generous and has allowed me not only to reach the immense Ice Continent, but also to come back several times and to live there for many months.
I took part in 5 polar expeditions and I had the privilege of exploring Antarctica from the top of the Plateau (the endless ice desert, over 3,000 meters above sea level) up to the depths of the oceans that surround it and lie under meters and meters of sea ice.
I met the most extraordinary animals, filming them where I never thought that I could get.
I walked where Ernest Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, Roald Amundsen and other exceptional men bravely walked 100 years before me and any other human being.
This is "my" Antarctica, where I will be back again, soon.