Filmmaker-in-Residence Captures Kelp in VR

CMG Filmmaker-in-Residence Erik Rochner has wrapped up production for his VR film about kelp forests off the coast of California. Erik's film is shot with 360VR and aims to illustrate the multiple factors affecting the current decline of kelp. The film will show viewers how a broad spectrum of anthropogenic and natural causes are at play, such as warming, ocean acidification, pollutions, introduction of invasive species, among others.

Erik began collecting footage for his film in late August in Monterey Bay at the Hopkins Marine Reserve with the intention of capturing the Hopkins Kelp Forest Array. However, visibility was poor due to a phytoplankton bloom. He then moved on to San Clemente Island in early September for three boat dives in decent weather with good visibility. There the kelp forests provided a good cross section of a healthy ecosystem for comparison. In early November, Erik shot around two more Islands: Anacapa Island where he filmed sea lion interactions amongst the kelp, and Catalina Island where he captured invasive Sargassum "devil weed" that has displaced kelp along the coast of mainland California. In addition to the underwater footage, Erik also filmed at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego in their kelp exhibit where he was able to gain footage of the exhibit interior with kids peering inward from behind the acrylic. Erik shot this footage in order to provide a juxtapositiion to wild kelp ecosystems and a baseline for "ideal" habitat and marine diversity. His goal is to see if similiar marine life could be captured in the wild. 

Erik is also collaborating with Dr. Emily Kelly of the Scripps Institute to bring an understanding of the impacts of global climate change on kelp forest ecology into the final film. Dr. Kelly is featured diving in the Birch Aquarium kelp exhibit and she provides voice over to help contextualize some of the kelp environments explored.

Post-production will continue in the coming weeks and we're excited to see his final film around the start of the New Year.

Learn more about Erik and his project here, and learn more about the Filmmaker-in-Residence project here.