Aquaman filmed scenes ‘dry-for-wet’ in Australia
The story follows Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry – the ‘Aquaman’ of the title – as he steps up to lead the underwater world of Atlantis. Directed by James Wan, the film is part of the DC extended universe of films based on characters from the eponymous comic book publisher.
Filming ‘dry-for-wet’ meant that dry shooting conditions were made to look as though they were underwater, through the use of a range of in-camera and digital effects.
“Gold Coast, Queensland, is one of the best places in the world to film waterborne projects,” says Duncan Jones, the film’s supervising location manager, in comments to KFTV.
“Village Roadshow Studios has three purpose-built tanks amongst nine sound stages, including the largest in the southern hemisphere. The studio stages themselves are located within 30 minutes of pristine beaches and headlands, with the diversity of rainforests and cityscapes nearby. It really is the perfect mix of locations within the studio zone.”
Shooting underwater for any length of time is immediately impractical for dialogue scenes, but also physical set builds can quickly suffer under the corrosive effects of chemical treatments necessary for cleanliness and visibility.
Wan and his team used a combination of camera movement, differing camera shutter speeds and alternating light effects to make it look as though their story settings were underwater.
The movie did make use of water tank filming but only for specific sequences, including action scenes involving a submarine, which was built as a set above a tank and then submerged for the shoot.
Ultimately more than 50 separate sets were built across all nine stages at Village Roadshow Studios.
Still, nearly half of the movie was in fact shot outside the studio, with most of the location elements involving set builds of various sizes.
Coastal setting Hastings Point in New South Wales (pictured above) became a key location and was chosen as the setting for the Curry family home – in the story, protagonist Arthur is the son of a lighthouse keeper and a princess of Atlantis – with Australia’s coast doubling for Newfoundland in eastern Canada.
The lighthouse itself was a complete location set build (pictured above), but the team first had to get permissions from all levels of government to erect it in the first place.
“Cultural and environmental sensitivities had to be carefully managed,” says Jones. “We had to do things such as carry out archaeological studies to ensure there was no disturbance to Aboriginal artefacts resting just below the surface of the set; build the set in pieces like Lego off-site and put together on-site to avoid major construction and painting, which had potential impacts to the marine environment.
“[We had to] create an education programme to increase crew awareness about the unique and intrinsic values of the site, designed to increase their levels of effort and consideration. The installation carried on over two months [and for] two weeks of filming before restoration over another month.”
The next high-profile film to shoot in Queensland will be monster movie Godzilla vs Kong. Other parts of Australia retain their appeal as international filming locations, with comic book drama Preacher set to shoot in Melbourne from early next year.
See KFTV's production guide for more on filming in Australia.
Aquaman image: Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Comics. Set images: Duncan Jones.