Magazine article American Cinematographer

Underwater Specialist

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Underwater Specialist

Article excerpt

More at home beneath the sea than on dry land, this imaginative technician creates and moves in his own wondrous underwater world

When you walk into Jordan Klein's office and ask him if there is anything interesting happening, be ready; there usually is.

He might be deep in thought considering three or four different ways to film a shot other cameramen have said is impossible. Or he might be designing a spectacular underwater prop to jazz up a not-so-spectacular script.

Recently, I came to work determined not to be distracted by one of Jordan's projects. When I stuck my head in for a quick hello, I could tell by the faraway look in his eyes that he was engrossed in something new. I decided my invoices could wait and sat down in anticipation. When the faraway look began to twinkle, I knew he had solved his problem and liked the solution.

"Alan McCabe was just here and wants to know how to photograph from a dolphin's point of view" he began. Alan McCabe is from Icarus Productions, which is currently filming "THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN" directed by Mike Nichols and starring George C. Scott.

After a pause, I said, "Alright, tell me. How do you photograph from a dolphin's point of view?"

"I have to admit the answer to that did not come to me instantly," he says, "but I figured it out while we were discussing other underwater photographic problems. The solution, in this instance, will be to attach a camera to the front of a propulsion device that the cameraman will lie prone on and 'fly' through the water with the same motion that a porpoise makes at speed."

Ultimately, Jordan assembled this item and recorded the sequences for the film.

In addition to this, Jordan provided an underwater chamber open to the atmosphere capable of holding the cameraman and assistant along with a Panavision camera with zoom lens. This unit allowed the camera crew to remain submerged for extended periods, remaining dry and warm while viewing through any of the three ports. The porting system was designed so that the camera could be placed in any of the three ports. This unit is constructed of steel, is four feet square and sixteen feet tall. It features its own ballast tank so that split-image photography can be accomplished at the surface. The ballast system allows the entire unit to raise or lower one foot at the command of the operator. The unit was also constructed so that it could be towed to any location in a water-tight configuration while lying on its side. In this way, it could be towed across extremely shallow water, since the total draft is only a few inches. Once the unit was on location, it was flooded at the bottom and went from a horizontal into a vertical position. The unit is extremely stable and provides a very firm underwater platform for a large camera package.

Often Jordan is consulted about ideas which are in the thinking stage and never make it to the script. If a writer or director decides for the story to go in another direction and fails to use an idea or two, Jordan simply stores it away in the back of his mind for some future use.

For instance, Alan McCabe also wanted to know if it would be possible to photograph a dolphin swimming at speed. After thinking this out, Jordan said he could construct a dumbbell camera system to be carried in the dolphin's mouth and be activated by the dolphin. In one of the plexiglass spheres, an Eymo would be located with a very compact electric drive and, in the other sphere, he would mount a nickelcadmium battery pack. A pressure switch in the center, on the point that would be in the dolphin's mouth would activate the camera. …

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