Watch the video of the Underwater Studio concept.
Underwater Movie Studio
I designed this virtual facility back in 2010 after being contacted by Ray Productions of Beijing. They were searching for input and ideas for the construction of a dedicated underwater studio. I wanted to illustrate all the features that would be important to have in a studio created exclusively for the filming of underwater scenes.
My ideal size for a perfect tank would be at least 60 feet by 60 feet. The depth would be about 20 feet. There would be three distinct levels in the tank starting with the boat ramp in line with a roll up door going down the 5 feet deep section. From this level there would be permanent concrete stairs going down to a 10-foot deep level with more stairs going to a 15-foot deep zone followed by the last set of stairs to the bottom at 20 feet. Permanent stairs right to the bottom makes life a lot easier when the tank is partially or entirely drained. If a larger area of only 5 or 10 feet deep is required it is easy to build an underwater scaffold platform to extend the 5 or 10-foot zone. For scenes with vigorous wave action the level may be dropped to whatever level is required to ensure that wave water stays in the tank.
A large deck around the tank is important when combining above and below water set elements. Sloping rock cliffs that go right from the ceiling to deep underwater are easy to create when there is enough deck space. Greenscreens, translights, and other topside elements need room for front or back lighting. If the permanent deck needs to be larger, scaffold platforms underwater make it possible to create almost any conceivable set piece from the edge of an ice-covered mountain forest to a sloping tropical beach.
The dive tank walls and floor would be flat black. Greenscreens would be lowered into the water on truss and chain motors from the 40-foot high underside of a beefy arrangement of steel roof trusses. Literally tonnes of rigging and lighting equipment can safely hang from the ceiling trusses of most modern studios and the ideal underwater studio would have the same structural characteristics as any conventional purpose-build studio.
There should be a dedicated room for the director and the rest of the video village personnel. They can watch and direct the action from the comfort of proper chairs and tables with large-screen HDTV monitors, underwater speakers, and live two-way communication with the dive crew. The dive tank area will be warm and humid and the air-conditioned comfort of the video village room will be appreciated.
Since there could be up to 15 or more divers and actors in the water (depending on the script) there needs to be an efficient way to deal with dive gear and wet divers. The divers need good access to and from the water. A wet-use washroom facility adjacent to the divers area helps maintain water quality. Air compressors located in the basement directly below the divers makes filling scuba tanks a very simple procedure.
The underwater camera crew needs their workstation right beside the divers area. Underwater camera housings need to be opened fairly often to change lenses, batteries, etc.
The underwater crew needs a good locker room for changing in and out of their wetsuits. Actors may need a hot tub to warm up between shots if they start to find the water a bit cool. A seminar room is important for training purposes. Space is also required for production offices, wardrobe, props, set dec, grip and lighting departments. Laundry facilities for wetsuits, towels, and wardrobe can be located anywhere in the building. A large freight elevator right from the basement to the roof facilitates any kind of future need. A helicopter-landing pad on the roof is essential for people for whom time is money.
These are just a few of the ideas covered in the animation and the correspondence that was emailed to Ray Productions of Beijing. Now it appears that China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, is building an underwater studio as part of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis. Once completed in 2017, the project will be the world's largest studio complex with 20 sound stages in addition to the underwater studio. From my perspective as a Key Rigging Grip and an Underwater Key Grip this is a preview of what the ideal underwater studio and production center would look like. I am excited to see how many of my ideas actually make it into the finished project. So Mr. Jianlin, if you read this and want to send me a ticket to China to come and see the completed project I would definitely accept your offer!
This design concept is copyright protected and is not to be used or copied in any way without the written permission of DeWaal Media Productions Ltd.
For more information on this proposal and for any commercial use of these concepts please contact
design by DEWAAL