Secrets Of The Octopus : Under The Sea Never Looked More Amazing!

I am a sucker for beautiful nature docs. National Geographic has been making these top quality films for years, and their brand stamp means you will get an engaging, brilliantly crafted experience every time, with a message to expand your knowledge of the natural world around us.

A week ago, we were all looking to the sky for the solar eclipse, so let’s reverse it and look at that magic of the ocean and its creatures.

With Nat Geo & Disney+, you have a new series to binge, created by Adam Geiger, James Cameron’s Director of Photography, and on this project he was director/writer/producer/director of photography.

Director and cinematographer, Adam Geiger, on board a dive vessel in Port Phillip Bay. (photo credit: National Geographic/Harriet Spark)

Over the last two-plus years, Geiger has dedicated himself to “Secrets of the Octopus,” spending about a year of that time underwater with eight key octopus species around the world.

Camera Assistant, Woody Spark, and Associate Producer, Harriet Spark, set up a special remote underwater camera system to film Day octopus (Octopus cyanea) on the Great Barrier Reef. (photo credit: National Geographic/Adam Geiger)

When I first saw this trailer below, I was hooked.


And I had questions!

Luckily, those questions were shared with the Adam Geiger, the DP and creator of this series:

1)       During the making of “Secrets of the Octopus,” what was size of your crew?    

The film crew for Secrets of the Octopus varied by location, from a team as small as 4, up to 12 people. On most shoots, I had a second, experienced cinematographer working with me. A few times, we had concurrent shoots on opposite sides of the world, and we enlisted talented local camerapersons to capture specific sequences. No matter where we were filming, it took a dedicated, highly professional team to make it all possible, including dive supervisors on the surface, and an underwater team of both safety divers watching the camera team, and diving camera assistants to ferry around/change out/reload the 6 camera systems we often used on a dive. At every remote location, it was all-hands-on-deck to maintain the diving, camera and lighting equipment, preparing it all for hours of use each day.

2) What was the extent of the lighting being natural vs need to set-up lighting?

 My goal is to always make a scene feel natural. In almost every sequence in Secrets of the Octopus, we used underwater lights to enhance color and contrast. By day, that could mean one small light underwater to restore warm colors in the foreground, or at night, big lights on the surface to create a moonlit underwater seascape. The exceptions were a few scenes in water only a few feet deep, where lighting was impractical.

3) What cinema camera was used?

My talented team used a variety of cameras to record in Ultra High Definition. For maximum resolution and flexibility in the grade, we recorded in RAW formats:

RED Helium and Sony A1 in 8K; Sony F5 and A7Siii in 4K, and ZCam in 6K.

Camera assistant, Woody Spark, setting up the specialist underwater camera system that will be used to film Day octopus (Octopus cyanea) on the Great Barrier Reef. (photo credit: National Geographic/Harriet Spark)

Octopus can change their shape, colour and texture faster than the blink of an eye. And their behavior in the wild has hardly been studied. So, we needed to capture a huge amount of very high-quality footage to reveal the story and new science of each octopus. Ultimately, the shoot ratio was around 40:1.

5) What was the best time of day to shoot?

Octopus spend a lot of their time resting in a den — it’s the safest place to be in between their hunting trips. The shoots were based on when a particular species would be most active. The Day octopus, as its name suggests, was active during sunlight hours. But the Blue-ringed octopus is busiest at night. We often started our 4+ hour dives after 9PM, like in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean. Over time, we learnt when individual octopus were out and about. Like most natural history filming, it’s the animal who dictates when the cameras roll.

Cinematographer, Rory McGuinnes, operating an underwater jib arm to film a colorful coral reef on the Lembeh Strait. (National Geographic for Disney/Adam Geiger)

A Dorado Octopus. (mandatory photo credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute)

Director and cinematographer, Adam Geiger, preparing to descend on a dive to film Day octopus (Octopus cyanea) on the Great Barrier Reef. (photo credit: National Geographic/Harriet Spark)

I hope some of your questions were answered.

I always want to know the BTS!

The “Secrets of the Octopus” premieres April 21st at 8/7c  on National Geographic and all episodes stream April 22nd Disney+.

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