I was approached by my client Mark Wilkinson at Work Comms with this visual and the question… “So how would you shoot this, Tim?” He wanted to pick my brains about how best to create a flooded room with a view above and below the water line. Internally, they had discussed using CGI as a possible solution and also shooting a traditional roomset combined with a shot of water from a water tank. Not convinced that either of these routes would give a truly believable result, and as someone who thrives on a challenge, I suggested shooting it for real, as one shot, in the studio. Mark was intrigued and excited and wanted to hear more. Below is the original visual:
Around two years earlier I had been commissioned to shoot an ad for Vimto depicting a number of kids floating on rubber rings slurping the drink through giant straws. This required me to get under water and over water shots at the same time – exactly what Mark was hoping to achieve. The visual also showed the waterline quite distinctly across the frame of the shot, so an underwater camera was out of the question as the water would be too close to the camera to get the horizon line we needed. Through my previous research I also knew that shooting through the side of a glass sided pool would be optically challenging. I called on my experience from the Vimto shoot, sent some reference shots to Mark and convinced him this was the way to go.
My plan was to buy a large circular pool we could fill with water and into which we would lower the set. Of course, positioning a heavy room set on top of a fragile rubber pool lining is always going to have its dangers and so I opted to suspend the wall an inch or two above the pool floor so they never came in contact. The wall would be attached to the height adjustable lighting gantry and lowered once the pool had filled. To get the view above and below water at the same time, with a visible water line, I planned to shoot from within a semi-submerged tank with special optically clear perspex as the viewing window.
The 15ft diameter swimming pool was ordered along with a couple of pairs of waders, and I set to work building the tank. The stylist was briefed and started hunting for furniture and props that we could buy for the set. Obviously these items were all going to be “flood damaged” so hiring them was out of the question.
Having done the shoot for Vimto, I knew how to build the water tank, only this time I would learn from some of the mistakes I made and build a new and improved water tank. Instead of building the whole tank from perspex and welded steel, I built it from MDF with only the window at the front being perpsex. The MDF was easy to waterproof with marine paint. I wouldn’t need to physically get inside the tank as I had done last time, as the camera would be locked off, so it could be much smaller too. As the pool was circular it gave me the opportunity to hang the tank from two scaffold bars.
Monday 9am – pool assembly commenced. We suspended the wallpapered plywood wall from the lighting gantry and started filling the pool. It was a big pool. We had one small hosepipe. It was clear that this was going to take some time!