Film provides immersive look at Bay Area marine sanctuary using 3D camera technology

ByDan Ashley and Tim Didion KGO logo
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Film provides immersive look at Bay Area marine sanctuary
An immersive film by a volunteer team collaboration provides an immersive look at the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary using 3D camera technology.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you could venture deep into the waters of the Bay Area coast, you'd find a hidden world of magnificent sea creatures and more. It's a protected gem that's also a critical marine habitat.

"I would say 99.9999% of people will never see this beautiful place. Yet, it's so valuable for the incredible amount of biodiversity that it has. The invertebrate and crusted rock of the bank itself, and also all the fish that come there to use that habitat," says Jennifer Stock, who is an educator with NOAA and the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine sanctuaries.

She and a team of volunteer diver-filmmakers decided to help the public experience what only a lucky few in the research world get to see -- An experience they've dubbed: Explore the Blue: 360-degrees Cordell Bank Adventure.

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"Yeah, so the camera that we used is called a boxfish camera. And it actually has three cameras that can take video footage around all around," Stock explains.

The views are stunning. But getting the camera to the depths took a team of divers employing special tanks and dive lines to keep them safe in the open ocean waters off Point Reyes.

"And so what you have to do is bring a lot of light with you. You've got to go and coordinate -- how you're lighting the scene, how far away from the subjects you're trying to film. And, you know, in terms of where you place the camera, the angles, and so there's a lot of dynamics that go into it," says Rob Lee with the nonprofit Bay Area Underwater Explorers.

The cameras photograph in 3D, but capturing the scene still takes significant expertise. Photographers don't actually shoot through a traditional lens and viewfinder.

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"And so you're, you know, having to rely on judgment, intuition and really just experience in terms of, 'Hey, if I place this here, it's about three feet away from the reef.' I know I can -- like that with the lights up here -- and I'll get good angles, you know? Again, a lot of intuition that comes into it," Lee said.

The film is viewable online, but also through immersive headsets available at Sanctuary headquarters at Crissy Field. The result is a journey to a remote but spectacular marine refuge and a chance to experience the life that's thriving there.

Cordell Bank is roughly 20 miles off the coast of Marin and Sonoma counties, with peaks more than a 100 feet below the surface. So you get an idea of the effort it took to film its treasures.

You can view the experience here.

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