3-D Leagues Under the Sea

Documentarian Howard Hall's latest IMAX movie transports viewers underwater

Looking for something to do this Friday the 13th that has nothing to do with Jason Voorhees and Crystal Lake? Check out the latest IMAX film, Under the Sea in 3D and dive deep without getting wet. Attach the crazy looking glasses to your head (someday they'll figure out a way to ditch the specs) and be transported to off the coast of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Great white sharks, garden eels and Australian sea lions seem to swim right off the screen, leaving the viewer wondering, how did they do that?

Filming underwater is hard enough, but doing it in IMAX 3-D is altogether another challenge. "I do it purely for the money," laughs director Howard Hall. Hall began his underwater filming career in 1970 and has worked on over 100 underwater projects. "Working with a 1300 pound system that runs only three minutes at a time may be impractical, but it's also really fun," says Hall. And requires a lot of patience, adds producer and wife Michele Hall.

To capture the footage used in the film, Hall and his team logged over 350 hours underwater. The sheer weight of the equipment posed a problem both on land and in sea. A forklift was required to unload the 1,300-pound camera and 1,200 pounds of film from the airplane in New Britain. Underwater, it took four people to complete the actual filming. Two divers to hold the camera steady and two more who stood (or swam) by to help maneuver. In addition, three people on the dive boat were required to oversee the reloading of film. The special IMAX film records only three minutes of footage per roll, forcing the team to do their research beforehand. According to Hall, production began a year before the actual filming, giving divers time to scout the various sites and find the best times for filming.

"While the process was time consuming, it was all worth it when the team got lucky and something great happened," says Hall. "Some of the best scenes, the most unique, happened by chance." Hint: watch for the sea turtles.

While the film gives viewers a chance to see unusual critters and beautiful landscapes not usually documented, it does much more. One of the main goals is to educate the audience about the consequences of climate change on ocean dwellers. "People need to be aware," says Hall. "The Obama administration is giving hope for environmental policies." To help protect the fish and animals under the sea, Hall encourages viewers to vote for green policies and stay knowledgeable about the environment.

But don't worry, the film is hardly political. It's quite fun and entertaining. And just try to leave the theater not humming The Beatles' "Octopus's Garden." Believe me, it's not easy.