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Imax Camera Dives Deep

The large screen IMAX format is well suited to exploring the natural world, whether it’s high above sea level or far below it.

“Under the Sea” is the latest underwater adventure in IMAX. It opens Friday at Carnegie Science Center.

The 3-D version isn’t coming to 3-D-capable IMAX venues here, but the Science Center’s domed Omnimax Theater affords a hypnotic window into a seldom-seen world. In the visual overload that is “Under the Sea,” two dimensions are plenty.

The crew traveled to New Guinea, Australia and Indonesia — an area that is home to more species of marine life than anywhere else on the planet.

“Under the Sea” director Howard Hall has logged many miles of underwater filming with the giant IMAX camera (“Deep Sea 3D,” “Into the Deep 3D,” “Island of the Sharks.”).

Highlights include footage shot in the Coral Triangle, an area north of Australia that is home to about 40 percent of the world’s reef wildlife and more than 75 percent of all known coral species. The camera captures the beauty of this underwater garden of coral formations and mangrove roots.

Viewers will meet a number of marine citizens — great white sharks, leafy sea dragons, cuttlefish, jellyfish, sea turtles and sea snakes, sea lions, garden eels and more.

Audiences will see things even experienced divers never have, including the mating ritual of the cuttlefish, along with several dramatic examples of meal time in the reefs.

One sequence stars hundreds of 6-foot garden eels standing upright on the ocean floor, waving like giant blades of grass. In another, a group of playful and curious sea lions swims up to the camera for some amazing close-ups.

The film is narrated by Jim Carrey, whose delivery complements the sometimes-comical behavior of some of these underwater characters.

Making nature films is always an unpredictable business. Getting a huge camera underwater — and capturing footage of often shy creatures — is no easy task. And the crew faced other challenges in shooting “Under the Sea.”

During the filming, a volcanic eruption forced the crew to shuffle their schedule, but they ended up capturing and using a segment of that event as well. The crew also had a close, unexpected encounter with a great white shark.

The aim of this film, like many IMAX nature films, is not just to document wildlife, but to instill a sense of how precarious its future survival is. “Under the Sea” is designed to raise a red flag on behalf of the environment — specifically the effect global climate change is having on the ocean and its wildlife.

Increased carbon dioxide changes the ocean’s chemical balance. A shift from alkaline to acidic water affects the formation of calcium carbonate — the substance that makes the coral reefs and composes the shells of mollusks and clams.

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