1942 – “By 18 meters deep” – First filmmaking

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In 1942, Cousteau starts his first film: "By 18 meters deep."
He doesn’t own any apparatus able to respond to his requirements yet. He has just experimented with Philippe Tailliez a camera enclosed in a glass jar as far as the camera used by the priest Poidebard for first shooting experiences of an underwater archaeological site. The camera was deemed inadequate for an underwater swimmer.

Cousteau has an old camera Kinamo Zeiss 35 mm with featuring a 16 m charger, offering less than 30 seconds of film. He discovers in Marseille, in a junk dealer Hungarians, a very bright lens, a Kinoplasmat Hugo Meyer, which does not offer a very good "image sharpness" but opens on a diaphragm of a 1,5.

In absence of any underwater lighting and given the considerable loss of light occasioned by immersion in the marine environment, it is essential to have an objective which "open wide". For the same reason, which is to get a maximum of light on the film, Cousteau actually reduces the shutter speed of the camera and changes the scrolling speed in agreement, to obtain the necessary 24 images per second.


 Caméra Zeiss Ikon model Kinamo 35mm



But the camera is not all. They need to invent the waterproof case to house it. With help of Léon Vèche, his friend, a mechanical engineer of the Royal, and great handyman jack of all trades, he conceives this case. Leon Vèche, with makeshift means, fashions a waterproof brass box, whose controls focus and aperture are made via cable glands, while the trigger is performed using a flexible command. 

Portrait of Léon Vèche


Motion picture film, in these times of occupation, is impossible to found. But the 35 mm film is the standard 24x36 for Leica cameras, still found in some shops in Marseille and Toulon. Jacques-Yves and Simone scour the stores looking for blank reels Isopan F 24x36 black and white. And it is under a thick blanket as a darkroom that Cousteau assembles, one by one, so as to form lengths of 16 meters required for the Kinamo charger, corresponding to ten loads of Leica. To remain invisible, the seam should fall between two images, and meet multiple of four holes, corresponding to the width of an image, equal to 18 mm.

The parallelepiped box handled by Léon Vèche




Shooting in Les Embiez -1942 

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Léon Vèche are entering the sea




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