Underwater Wonders of the NPS Features V.I. National Park Resources 3-D Film To be Released in Spring 2011

Towering elkhorn coral, intricate mangrove root systems and  brightly colored fish are just a few of the V.I. National Park’s underwater treasures which will be featured like never before.

Armed with cutting edge 3-D underwater camera systems, National Park Service officials wrapped up a week and a half of filming at various sites throughout VINP waters on Thursday, April 29.

Brett Seymour, A/V production specialist for the NPS Submerged Resources Center in Denver, Colorado, led the film crew as the group shot footage for an educational 3-D film he’s producing.

“Underwater Wonders of the National Park System,” will showcase the submerged treasures at VINP, Dry Tortugas, Channel Islands, USS Arizona, Isle Royal and Yellowstone National Parks. The film is set to be released in spring 2011 and will be aired at NPS sites across the country.


A crew of divers, NPS officials and camera technicians captured V.I. National Park resources with 3-D high definition underwater cameras last week for a movie featuring submerged NPS treasures.

“We’re going to build portable 3-D theaters so we can set them up and then break them down and take them to the next site,” said Seymour. “We want to air the film in National Parks around the country. The whole idea is to educate as many people — students, families — as possible.”

While Seymour has access to the treasured protected resources within NPS boundaries, what he doesn’t have is an institution working on developing and perfecting cutting edge custom 3-D underwater camera systems. Enter the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with its advanced imaging and visualization laboratory.

“We develop custom unique camera systems for clients for a variety of uses,” said Evan Kovacs, field operations and cameraman for Woods Hole.

Through the partnership with Woods Hole, NPS officials can capture incredible imagery of underwater sites and then use the images to analyze the areas back up on the surface.

A filmmaker films an elk horn coral with an underwater 3-D high definition camera off Hawksnest Beach.

The partnership between Woods Hole and NPS, also allows the oceanographic institution to test its camera systems and continually perfect its technology.

“We have access to these amazing natural resources and we have the dive boats and the docks to use to get out here and shoot, but we don’t have a million-dollar lab working on the latest filming technology,” said Seymour. “This partnership allows us to showcase our treasures by using the latest cameras. We need to engage the youth and show them how important these resources are.”

“The NPS credo is to protect these resources for future generations and we’re trying to do that in a way that is relevant to the next generation,” Seymour said.

The A/V specialist has been working with 3-D technology for years, but credited the success of recent Hollywood blockbuster films for taking the technology mainstream.

“I’ve been doing 3-D for years, but I couldn’t get the kind of budget that I needed before,” said Seymour. “Now that everyone sees what 3-D can produce, it’s been a little easier.”

While not his first stint at producing, Seymour’s “Underwater Wonders of the National Park Service,” is his most ambitious film to date.

“This is the biggest film I’ve done in terms of scope,” he said. “We’ve been filming for about a year already and we are still going back to sites. But we’ve already done all of the scouting so we should be finishing this year and have the film ready by next spring.”

Snorkelers get an upclose look at an elk horn coral off St. John.

At VINP, Seymour’s crew filmed elk horn coral off Hawksnest Bay, mangroves at Hurricane Hole, coral and fish off Waterlemon Cay and more.

“Here we are really trying to showcase the diversity of the VINP,” said Seymour. “We’re trying to show all that there is here, from the mangroves to the coral and fish and turtles”

Out of everything he saw during his dives around St. John, Seymour was most impressed with the elk horn coral at Hawksnest.

“I’ve never seen elk horn coral before and it’s pretty neat stuff and it’s endangered,” he said. “If we don’t protect elk horn coral my kids or the next generation won’t know what it is because it won’t be here.”

Kovacs was most dismayed by the damaged coral evident at various VINP sites.

“You can see some of the coral that suffered from disease and bleaching and that is pretty depressing,” said Kovacs. “You can see how fragile everything is and how important it is to protect what we can.”

The crew worked with several divers under the surface capturing shots, as other crew members monitored the footage and tweaked focus and lighting at a command center on the dive boat.

All VINP dive boats were too small to accommodate the control center so officials contracted Larry Randall of Dive Adventures of St. John. Randall’s dive boat was the perfect transportation and control center for the film crew with plenty of room for the cutting edge equipment.

Divers were underwater for about eight hours a day during the 12-hour work days that stretched over a week and a half.  During the shoots, the group worked with various park officials including VINP resource manager Thomas Kelley.

VINP officials were thrilled to be among the selected sites for Seymour’s new film.

“It’s great that they selected us to be a part of this project,” said VINP’s Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon. “We didn’t know what to expect at first and then 36 boxes of camera equipment showed up so we knew it was serious.”

After wrapping filming in VINP, officials were off to the Dry Tortugas before heading back stateside to complete their shot list.