Imagine being able to see marine life so up close, and in such detail, that you can make out the colors in a Humpback whale’s eyes. This and much more is a reality for visitors at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi’s stunning One Ocean Hub, which brought together dozens of the best wildlife filmmakers to create an unprecedented visual experience on the world’s largest cylindrical 360-degree LED screen. The One Ocean Hub features an awe-inspiring Spectacular as well as equally dazzling ambient modes spotlighting undersea content from oceans around the planet. To achieve that, a global team of partners used groundbreaking camera technology to create a gigantic 44k ‘cycloramic’ LED screen.
After extensive analysis and internal R&D, the team orchestrated a convergence of best in class vendors to create a bespoke 360º camera rig. It required a large camera housing to have an unprecedented number of cinema-style cameras in order to capture the resolution needed for a screen of this size. The team set out to push the envelope of what was possible to film at 360 degrees in both an under and above ocean environment to ensure enough overlap from each camera so that post-production stitching and roto would not be too high a cost factor for final delivery. Vendors were tasked with manufacturing custom-built underwater tripods and drone gimbals to precise specifications, in order to execute on the complex task for filming 360 in some of the most challenging ocean environments around the world. To ensure the best guest experience, long-duration stabilized shots were essential to achieving successful 360 underwater filming. The camera rig was specifically built to have neutral buoyancy, custom controls, and live preview for filming, and the operated ambient shots were balanced precisely to ensure that the camera operator had maximum control and minimal motion jitter when filming.
One of the many unique challenges when filming 360º is the amount of cameras needed on a horizontal plane to ensure that parallax is reduced to an absolute minimum. When filming underwater 360, the rig makes use of fixed lenses which forces camera operators to get very close to sea life; zooming is not an option. Due to this 360 filming limitation, the crew had to have a clear plan for each of the shots, and it required an extraordinary amount of filming to get even one long, successful shot.
When it comes to a screen the size of One Ocean Hub’s fully cylindrical LED canvas measuring 3600 sq meters total, with dimensions 15 meters high and 220 meters round, just a single fish could be the size of a school bus once displayed. To convey to stakeholders a sense of scale, the Thinkwell Media team added a scaled image of the Statue of Liberty next to the wildlife portrayed, which helped put in perspective the epic size of the screen.
Thinkwell Media successfully filmed the Proof Of Concept films with technology camera partners VRTUL and Sexton and Drone Operators from DragonFly. The main production of the One Ocean hub was successfully accomplished together with MacGillivray Freeman Films who captured the amazing footage playing in the One Ocean Hub at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi.
VRTUL, Sexton, DragonFly, MacGillivray Freeman Films