Execution in underwater shoot by Priya Seth and Anees Adenwala

Amidst the hype around the recent movie, “gehraiyaan” Capturing WOW took its audience to the real “gehraiyaan” of what it takes to shoot underwater. The insights of underwater shoot were shared by Anees Adenwala and Priya Seth in the exclusive dialogue “Execution in underwater” organised and arranged by the Capturing WOW army on 18th February 2022

Priya Seth - Underwater Cinematographer
Anees Adenwala - Underwater Producer & Director

Luv Israni, the chief energy officer at Capturing WOW hosted this captivating and interactive digital Dialogue on underwater shoot where both our guests got candid with our viewers. Both Anees and Priya have previously worked with countless celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Vicky Kaushal, Rani Mukherji, Taapsee Pannu, Yash, Vikrant Massey, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, and the list is endless!

 The session began with a quick sneak peek into the world of underwater shoot with Underwater Film Services (UFS), through which Anees and Priya both cater to the needs of underwater scenes of every Bollywood movie. Anees Adenwala, Director and partner at the Orca Dive club and underwater film services (UFS) shared his journey on how from an advertising person he became a certified diver and now a cinematographer.

Credits - Underwater Film Services

Priya Seth, on the other hand, has always been a cinematographer in various Indian feature films, commercials, and photography. However, she shared her fascinating journey on her transition from a regular cinematographer to an underwater cinematographer. Both Anees’s and Priya’s driving force has been Mr. Prahlad Kakkar, whose dream of building a scuba diving center on the Lakshadweep Island is now fulfilled. That is how UFS came into its inception and contributed abundantly to Indian cinema.

Bang Bang Movie Underwater Shoot (Underwater Film Services)

Anees and Priya shared their experiences of an underwater shoot, for instance, Anees mentioned a few key points on how to get started with underwater filming which is as follows:

1. Become a certified diver

2. Master the act of buoyancy 

3. Start with a small camera initially 

4. Experiment gradually with underwater shoot

Furthermore, Priya added to these key points, which Luv personally liked a lot :

1. Getting comfortable in the water 

 2. And then picking up your camera

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag Movie Underwater Shoot (Underwater Film Services)

As the sessions advanced, Anees and Priya shared the do’s and don’ts of underwater filmmaking such as:

1. Taking at least 40 dives before picking up the camera

2. Diving with a buddy 

3. Avoiding cheap courses

4. Avoiding underwater shoot in winters

5. Doing more rehearsals

They also shared a  general workflow that is followed for an underwater shoot which is as follows:

1. Discussing with the client what they want to shoot

2. Enquiring if they have a storyboard

3. Ensuring if the artists know swimming or diving 

4. Production meeting 

5. Choosing appropriate location

Ek Villain Movie Underwater Shoot (Underwater Film Services)

An appropriate location for an underwater shoot is mostly a swimming pool as it is more production-friendly and controllable. One of the challenges that underwater filmmakers always face is the cold temperature of the water during winters and the visibility of the water round the year.

Since external things are getting in the waters during an underwater shoot, sometimes the turbidity makes it hard to get a crisper image, even with the greatest equipment. At such times the underwater shoot has to be cancelled. The only way to overcome this challenge as told by Priya is to rehearse and follow protocols, the more you do, the more you learn! 

Some key learnings that our viewers learned about an underwater shoot throughout the dialogue were:

1. Start with smaller sensors cameras and then move to full-frame cameras

2. Sticking to natural light instead of using special light systems for daylight shooting

3. Use of neutral screen such as a grey screen for keying

Along with such informative key learnings, they also shared the an underwater shoot BTS of ‘Bhoot’ movie starring Vicky Kaushal and Bhumi Pednekar where one particular scene revealed the hard work it takes to shoot underwater. For example, there were tracking marks in the background which were covered, and then with the aid of graphics, it was turned into the ship and so on.

Priya shared how daylight is an underwater filmmaker’s best friend and how shooting at night is immensely challenging as to create a “no light look” ironically, one has to use lots of lights shooting underwater. 

Some of the questions asked by our viewers to them were:

1. Is there any special pre-diet required?

No, not necessarily 

2. Can an asthmatic patient become a diver?

Yes. As long as the person has a medical declaration and clearance

3. How many hours on average do they shoot underwater in a pool and the sea?

Depending on the weather conditions, if the water is 28° C then 7-8 hours and around the same time in winters too.- Priya

4. Which full-frame camera is a good one?

Larger the sensor the shallower the depth of field and hence more the problems you will face while focusing unless one uses artificial light. Hence, try starting with smaller sensor camera frames as you will have more control over your craft and your body and then move to full-frame – Priya 

5. What is your favourite camera?

currently we use Arri SXT, ARRI MINI, ARRI MINI IF and previously we used the RED WEAPON, RED 1 but it’s finally up to the preference of the cinematographer of the film – Anees

6. Any low-budget camera to start with?

Sony AFS is a great one to start with – Anees & Priya

7. Which lenses are sharp in water? 

The lenses depend on what housing you are using and the housing msy determine which lens to use. So you will plan ahead on which lens you want to buy and buy a housing accordingly. With underwater we normally don’t zoom much. 

Long lenses in the water is not a great idea, so you stick to a wider lens and even if it’s a zoom we will stick to a shorter zoom just to make it convenient to change magnification but the longer lenses are quite redundant.

8. How are underwater colour correction and grading done?

As you go deeper in the water, the wavelength gets shorter and hence your image gets bluer and bluer. In earlier times, we used to put a warmer filter. Although today we can either shoot in shallow water or get it colour corrected digitally – Anees

9. What is the lighting process used in the deep ocean?

We try to be within the 10-metre mark because there is plenty of natural sunlight. Anything beyond that is not feasible. Whereas during a night sequence we imitate the sea in a controlled environment like a pool instead of lighting up the entire sea. – Anees

10. How does one get a black background underwater?

Black plastic or cloth is used, along with visual effects, and all additional lights are cut off. – Priya

11. How does the background go into the water?

The backgrounds are rolled on a metal rod which is rolled down like a curtain and held by divers from beneath. – Anees

12. Is keying difficult underwater?

Keying is pretty difficult if done incorrectly. green screens do not work very well underwater. After trying out with blue screens, we now use the grey screen as it is neutral. – Priya

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