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Open Top Tanks for Underwater Filming

Practical Special Effects with an Underwater Stage

Zena Holloway working in an underwater studio
Zena Holloway working in an underwater studio.
[CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Open top tanks are used by movie studios around the world for underwater filming and scale model effects. A larger steel tank can function as an underwater studio or dive tank both indoors and outdoors. Scale model filming for floods or ocean surface scenes use smaller, shallow tanks to get the right shot. Smaller open top tanks also provide support and liquid storage to sets for practical special effects.


Need a tank for an underwater studio? Call GEI Works and ask about our products at 1-772-646-0597 or request pricing.


Steel Open Top Tanks for Filming Underwater Scenes

steel open top tankThe steel open top tank is the largest available option for an underwater stage with standard capacities over 600,000 gallons. Custom sizing of over 4,000,000 gallons are possible with some models. Each tank also comes with a variety of accessory choices, such as side ladders and filtration options, to fit the underwater filming project. Various liners are also provided, depending on water quality.

With such wide footprints and large capacities, open top tanks work well for filming underwater scenes at varying depths. There is enough space to fit all necessary filming and practical special effects equipment, while allowing plenty of room for actors and stunt people to move around. When built tall enough, open top tanks also make great underwater dive tanks. For an ocean surface tank, a wide, shallow construction is also a possibility.

For more information and specifications, see the Steel Tank Overview.

Frame Tanks for Practical Special Effects

frame tankFrame tanks are smaller, portable open top tanks. The foldable frame is made of either aluminum or steel with an interior liner attached with sturdy rope. Different liner options are available depending on water quality (chlorinated, non-chlorinated, etc.). Capacities range from 500 to 5,000 gallons with dimensions up to 17 feet by 17 feet. The standard height for all frame tanks is just over 2 feet.

Due to their smaller dimensions and portability, frame tanks function well as support to practical special effects. They can catch, filter, and cycle water used in smaller rain and waterfall effects. Frame tanks can also catch liquids flowing across a scene that must be contained once off-screen or even filming underwater scenes with scale models. Finally, they can also be used in remote filming locations for water storage.

Read more details and view our set-up video on the Frame Tank page.

Water Containment Berms for Scale Model Shots

water containment bermBerms are long, shallow open top tanks used primarily for the containment of water and other liquids. Lengths range from 6 feet to 50 feet with custom constructions available. Berms use aluminum angle brackets to create a 1 foot containment wall. The brackets are easily installed and removed for swift set-up and tear-down. They fold completely flat for simple, compact storage.

While not ideal for underwater filming, water containment berms can be used as ocean surface tanks for scale model shots. The berm lengths available allow for long shots against a green screen or open sky. Similar to frame tanks, water containment berms can also be used for special effect support by catching and cycling water. The berms can also be placed in a scene where water will be used, to keep the surrounding areas dry.

View specifications and liner material options on the Aluminum Angle Berm page.

Questions about tanks for filming underwater scenes? Call GEI Works at +1-772-646-0597 or contact us to discuss your project.