The Environment

Even under the best possible conditions, filming underwater presents the cinematographer with numerous photographic problems not encountered on land. Atmospheric haze, with the accompanying desaturation of the warmer color tones, loss of detail and contrast, has its underwater counterparts in turbidity and color cast. Turbidity, caused by suspended matter varying from small sand particles to microscopic organisms such as plankton, reduces light by absorption, diffuses the image, and reflects direct front light into the lens ("backscatter"). Turbidity affects the quality of underwater cinematography more than any other factor. Visibility may be reduced from many feet to just a few, and vice versa.

Water absorbs the longer wavelengths of light (reds and yellows); therefore, the farther the light must travel from source to subject to lens, the less reds and yellows will register on the film. This can be partially overcome by artificial lighting and sometimes by selective use of Kodak color compensating (CC) lens filters. Photographic tests with these filters is suggested. Loss of color contrast resulting from the selective filtration of underwater light can be reduced through careful subject color selection.

This will apply to underwater sets, props and even the type of wardrobe worn by actors. Color interest may be added to objects beyond the range of red or orange transmission through the use of bright blue, green and yellow. White must be used with care because its reflective qualities together with underwater scattering will produce a haze effect. (Underwater visibility of production equipment can also be increased by giving it a bright chrome yellow finish.)

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