Friday, April 30, 2010

Surf Fridays!


I subscribe to Hana Hou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines. It is a quality publication and I always find beautiful photographs and several interesting stories. When this one came in the mail, I knew I'd want to share it with you on a Surf Fridays. Here are some of the most interesting facts about making the IMAX 3-D film, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti...

Story by Michael Shapiro & Photos by Dana Edmunds.


Teahupo'o has naturally become one of the world's most filmed waves, but for all the sublime and hair-raising footage shot here, director Stephen Low is the first to take on the challenge of filming it in IMAX 3-D. Low has a track record of pushing the limits of IMAX technology; In 1992 he descended 12,500 feet in a submersible to shoot Titanica.

The latest iteration of IMAX 3-D camera technology is a comparatively featherweight sixty-pound box about the size of a microwave oven - manageable enough maybe, to take into the maw of a creature like Teahupo'o. To do it, he assembled some of the most talented watermen around, and these are the big-wave surfers he chose:

Shane Dorian, whose sickening ride at Teahupo'o in 2006 earned him Billabong's Biggest Tube Award; Raimana van Bastolaer, a.k.a. "The Mayor of Teahupo'o," who's spent as much time inside the blue room as anyone; Kelly Slater, arguably the greatest surfer who's ever lived.


The story centers around Tahitian surfer Raimana van Bastolaer. Executive Producer Jeff Cutler calls Raimana "the most genuine dude you've ever met in your life." Director Stephen Low said, "Here's a guy who can surf the biggest waves out there, who could be a world-class competitor. But he didn't want to compete, didn't want to travel. He's found his perfect wave right here, and he lives very simply on the beach, helps people out and just enjoys life. Now he shepherds guys who come from around the world to surf this wave."

Raimaina told the interviewer, "I'm not a star...I didn't make Teahupo'o; Teahupo'o made me. I just want to give back; if I can share, that's the best."

A little side note - when Jay and I met Buttons last November, Buttons told us that Raimaina is his wife's brother, and he has been teaching Buttons how to tow in, which Buttons was super excited about.


As the crew is filming, Teahupo'o is offering up solid ten-plus-footers (expressed in "Hawaiian scale", which measures the back of a wave; the face could easily be twice that height). Even on small days, filming in 3-D poses daunting technical challenges. You need a short lens for 3-D, which means taking bigger risks. "You've got to get up close," says Low, "otherwise there's no point. Teahupo'o is unusual in that even at its most feral, it's possible to take a boat right up to its shoulder, making it uniquely filmable".

In midsize surf though, a boat won't be close enough, since the aim is to take audiences into the wave. Low and his crew did things with the IMAX camera that have never been tried: mounting it on the back of a jet-ski and dropping in ahead of the surfers, bolting it to the nose of a stand up paddler, even swimming it into the pit. That choice assignment went to cinematographer Mike Prickett (known for Billabong Odyssey & Step Into Liquid).



Prickett swam the camera into six-to eight-foot surf. With a 2-D camera, this might be all in a day's work, but the IMAX camera "is the hardest camera anyone's ever tried in the water," he said. In it's waterproof "splashbox", it's both cumbersome (130 pounds) and buoyant as a chunk of Styrofoam; there's no diving to escape a bomb. Prickett said he used to complain about 30-pound cameras, and he'll never do that again.

Also, a 2-D camera tracks a subject automatically - all the operator has to do is aim and shoot. 3-D required Prickett to pull focus manually, which means he had to keep his eye glued to the viewfinder. "I get the shot as Kelly goes by, but I can't see anything to the side, so when the wave comes...I'm going over the falls." Prickett can't bear the thought of turning a million dollar camera into a $2 piece of junk, so he must shield the camera with his body.


"Teahupo'o is a technically unforgiving wave," says Slater. "You have to find that median place where you have enough speed and you're not too deep in the barrel. There are a lot of calculations, and they take years to understand."


Two days from now, what could be the biggest swell of the season is projected to hit Teahupo'o. Up to thirty-foot faces possible. If the weather holds, it'll be classic Chopes at its heaviest, with Slater, Dorian and Raimana towing in to huge barrels.

"No one's going to want to shoot from the water if it's as big as they predict," Slater says. "I don't know if I want to be in the water. I've never surfed it half as big as what we're going to get. It's such a violent wave. Realistically, in waves that size, you have to be prepared to die. If you wipe out, there's no deep water to escape to. It goes to dry or shallow reef everywhere that you can wipe out.

But it's so exciting; you don't know if you're going to get the wave of your life or if you're going to die. You have all these people on the boats hooting, whistling, screaming. Sometimes the wave comes, and you just don't know if you can ride it. But, you don't want to let people down. When people come to the theater, they don't want to see a four-foot wave on an eighty-foot screen."




The Ultimate Wave Tahiti opened in IMAX theatres in February but it's still playing or coming soon. Check here to see if it's in your area. Have you seen it? I'd really like to, so I'll probably take a trip to Monterey soon.

Happy Surf Fridays!!

2 comments:

Ramsnake said...

Great post Jamie. Closest iMax? Ummm..... let me think now. Oh yes that's right 5 hours away in Perth where I hate to have to go anytime. Oh well!

Brine Time said...

Great post,cheers. Reminds me of Greenough filming for Big Wed out at huge Sunset on a mat. Their guts effort = out glorious viewing.