THE SHAPE OF WATER
When you fall in love with a fish man, as a mute cleaning woman does in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, some of your courtship will probably take place underwater. How to shoot those scenes, however, is a little less obvious. For most of the underwater moments, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi chose not to film in water at all. Instead he used a technique called “dry for wet,” in which the actors act in fog. That way, Berardi says, they could be “fully clothed, articulate, and very expressive. Plus, there’s a safety concern: if we shot this underwater, we’d have had to have respirators and divers standing by.” In an empty studio space, Berardi and his team attached rigs to actors Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, pumping in smoke to help create the murky view you get when you open your eyes underwater. Projectors around the space played an animated loop to mimic the reflection of sunlight through water. Finally, the actors were filmed at a higher speed – between 36 to 48 frames per second instead of 24 – so that their movements would appear to be slowed down. “We talked about having them act in slow motion but that didn’t work at all,” Berardi says. “They couldn’t really approximate the resistance that water would have on their limbs.” The last step was the hair, which fog doesn’t lift or wave about the way water would. A hair-simulation animation software took care of that.