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Underwater scenes have always been difficult to film, so it's easy to imagine that Aquaman, a movie that mostly takes place in the ocean, has quite a few technical challenges. Director James Wan admitted as much while talking about filming the upcoming superhero movie, stating that it's "super complicated." While he didn't reveal what method is being used for shooting these complex scenes, actor Willem Dafoe was willing to illuminate the subject. While many of the underwater scenes are done using CGI, the actors still need to mimic the effects using an elaborate harness set up. Dafoe explained:
Most of my scenes are underwater. Some are not. So much of it, because we're talking, and shooting underwater is a lot of ways impractical because you're limited to what you can do with sets. It's more about shooting them dry for wet, and then the effects do certain things to give the water feel. But we aren't doing the scenes underwater, but we are in harnesses and on wires. There is movement. It's not like we're all sitting around pretending we're underwater like this [stands up still], we're swimming around, we're moving. So that should be really beautiful.
Willem Dafoe will reprise Nudis Vulko, who is typically an advisor and mentor to Aquaman, in Aquaman following his debut in Justice League later this year. The Aquaman movie is unique to others in its genre due to its fantastical setting underwater. Because going practical and filming underwater limits you, the film is opting to go dry for wet (film on land and add water in post), but even that is not without complications. Dafoe told Screen Crush in an interview that most of his scenes are underwater, which means that they put him in a harness and he performs motions as if he were swimming. This way that movement is still there, which should help make the scene feel more authentic when everything is gussied up with CGI later.
If there was ever a way to mimic underwater, this would probably be the best way to do it. While the water isn't real, they have to keep track of a number of factors, like how hair, clothes and the camera should move. It makes for an interesting shooting experience for those curious about the more technical side of filmmaking. We won't see how this technique looks until they release footage of Aquaman to the public, but hopefully all that hard work pays off for them.
Aquaman is directed by James Wan and features the title DC hero going off on his own solo adventure. Not much is known about the film but it will involve Arthur Curry coming to terms with his rightful place as King of Atlantis while others plot against him. The film stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin and Michael Beach. Aquaman is set to hit theaters on December 21, 2018.