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Hold Your Breath

Take ii

Hold your breath and seize the moment - the life of an artistic swimmer.

Hold Your Breath: Take II was premiered at SCAD CoMotion 2020 Motion Graphics Conference, winning Best in Alternative Techniques. The video features USA National Artistic Swim Team member, Maya Plotniskaya, who flew across the country to perform. I feel very lucky to belong to such niche specialties as motion graphic design and artistic swimming; together creating something wonderful. 


To read the backstory on how this project came to be, visit Hold Your Breath: Take I.

Performance by Maya Plotniskaya - member of the USA artistic swimming national team 

Assisted in the shooting Preston Sullivan and Dani Bertero

Software : Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, MadMapper

Equipment : GoPro 7, LG CinBeam PH550

Photo prints of this project can be purchased here.

Written Treatment & Inspiration

What Lies Under the surface

The making of Take II



*Please excuse my hobo-esque attire while I run through choreography on land. Go Warriors!

Recording my movements helps me visualize what they look like, as well as helps me teach my performer when the time comes to have them learn the choreography. I play the music, then run through the routine on land. The term for this is called "land-drilling", used by synchronized swimmers universally.

Creating choreography in the water vs. on land are two completely different things. Unless you understand how your body moves and flows in the water, will become very difficult to execute certain choreography. Because your body is virtually suspended in zero gravity, you are using your own muscles to move, making it harder to move fast or travel. You also have to note the oxygen in your lungs creating buoyancy while holding your breath, and the need for air after being underwater a while. Obviously, you can not breath while dancing, so the duration of the takes depends on the endurance of the performer. 


Once you understand how to manipulate your body in the water, you can use it to create beautiful movements unlike anything you could attempt on land.




Taking the time to choreograph before the shoot day is necessary in order to spend as much time in the water as possible. This was a one night shoot, meaning I had taken months in advance to prep. I was choreographing the routine, packing all my supplies, building my cage, and water proofing the set before I even touched the computer. 

In the gif to the left you can see me teaching Maya the routine, physically demonstrating the movements and gesturing to my prior video references. Because Maya is experienced, it was easy to relay the choreography to her, as she picked it instantly. When I am in the water filming her, there is not much time to re-learn choreography or demonstrate what I need to happen, so it's important to establish that before. 

Engineering the Cage


This is how I am able to project underwater without destroying my equipment or electrocuting my performers. 

Using a tall fish tank and a couple 2by4s, I created a waterproof cage where I can place my projector inside and submerge it under the surface. This allows the projection to be seen clearly and without ripple distortion from the surface. 

This has been tested repeatedly to ensure the safety of myself and my performers. 

The photo below shows what the projection looks like underwater from on land.



The pool I was using was approximately 7ft deep. Deep enough to fully submerge Maya and allow the projection to be seen across her entire body.


Lighting and Contrast


The canvas in which I am projecting on is not your common white wall. It is a human body moving through water, which like any projection, is best seen in pitch blackness.

I bought custom white swim suit that when worn by the performer, provides an abstract screen to be projected on.

In order to make the visuals stand out as much as possible on the suit, I also submerged black tarps against the walls of the pool that would absorb any light and cover any reflective properties in the concrete.

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