From Katharine Gammon, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor:

Shaun MacGillivray has brought audiences to some of the most extreme environments Earth has to offer: the dizzying heights of Mount Everest, the perils of polar bear territory, and underwater to explore the seafloor.

The film company MacGillivray runs with his father, Greg — who started making surf films in the 1960s and moved into IMAX shortly thereafter — has produced 35 films in 40 years.

Oceans are among MacGillivray's passions, and OurAmazingPlanet caught up with him in Monterey, Calif., at the Blue Ocean Film Festival (held Sept. 24-30) to learn more about the challenges of his craft and the amazing things he has seen.

OurAmazingPlanet: What drives the stories you tell ? Is it the science or the entertainment?

Shaun MacGillivray: A big part of trying to raise public awareness is making sure people actually want to watch the films. That's a continual balance we have, from giant-screen films to smartphone screens. I think you need to start with the science, but tell it in a unique way. Over the last three years, we wanted to do something more for a passionate cause, and that's the ocean. So we helped launch One World One Ocean (, a 10-year environmental campaign from IMAX to iPhone to inspire people to protect the oceans. We first talked with the most highly esteemed scientists in the community, like Sylvia Earle, and we felt like a big problem is just ignorance — so few people know about the problems of the oceans.

OAP: What have you done so far?

SM: One of the most exciting things we've done is doing a public awareness campaign around the Aquarius Reef Base off the coast of Florida. We filmed NASA training for an asteroid mission underwater, and that they can use that facility as a way to do science and training. We brought cinematographers together and a team, and for a week straight we made online videos and pitched them to media outlets.

OAP: How tough is it to actually  work an IMAX camera underwater?

SM: There's no way around it: Working underwater is difficult. The reason why we do it is that the quality is so much better. IMAX gives 10 times higher resolution than traditional HD, and five times better than the best available digital capture. When you're looking at a movie on an eight-story-tall screen, that quality matters a lot. But because you're using such big film, the camera weighs 200 pounds and sometimes up to 1,000 pounds [90 kilograms and 450 kg].

OAP: Plus you've got all the equipment and limitations of diving…

SM: Right. And you also only have 3 minutes per roll before you have to come up and change film, which costs $1,000 per minute. Despite the challenges, we do it, and we're one of the few who will still go out there.

OAP: Since you grew up with a filmmaker father, did you ever want to do anything else?

SM: Luckily for me, I got to go on incredible film shoots around the world starting when I was really young. And I don't think I appreciated it, but I do now. I caught the film bug at an early age. I loved seeing the films develop, and I really loved being inside theaters with school kids who were being transported to Palau or the Great Barrier Reef or to Everest in a way that many of them would never be able to go. I saw that the films captivated their wonder about the natural world.

OAP: What is the toughest environment you've ever filmed in?

SM: The Arctic. When we made "To the Arctic," we were in the field for four years, eight months per year. In Svalbard, Norway, we found this mother polar bear and two cubs and really got a sense of what it's like to be in that environment. Probably the most heart-wrenching moments of the film were watching the mother polar bear stand her ground when a male polar bear came to attack her cubs. And even though he was twice as big as she was, the male polar bear backed down. [Images: Endangered Polar Bears]

OAP: Why do you love IMAX?

SM: I love it because it's so immersive. It's difficult to find in your living room, but when you see it on a huge screen and your peripheral vision is taken up, you really feel like you're there. It's also the storytelling — you can tell great stories and change people's behaviors on a different level.

OAP: What is one important thing people don't know about the oceans?

SM: We get more than 50 percent of our oxygen from the oceans. Most people think it comes from the rain forest, but it's not true. We've also lost about 90 percent of the big fish [in the ocean] — and what happened to them? We ate them. When I first found these facts out, it was astounding. Being storytellers, we have to be positive and optimistic and hopeful about the future. We think that many people will feel they have a moral imperative to do something once they know the oceans are our lifeblood.

Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • This April 21, 2010 photo shows a hawksbill sea turtle as it cruises over a reef just off the shore of Curacao. From mesmerizingly decorative buildings to lush coral reefs beneath sparkling turquoise waters, this Dutch Caribbean island has more than enough sights on land and under the sea to keep visitors restfully busy for a week. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

  • This April 9, 2012 photo provided by NOAA shows french grunts swimming around sponges and coral off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, taken as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sea-floor habitat research project aboard NOAA's Nancy Foster ship. In a three-week project that wraps up Saturday April 21, scientists with the NOAA are mapping an area to help officials determine what sort of rules are needed to protect the recently created Northeast Great Reserve, Puerto Rico's first officially designated marine corridor. (AP Photo/NOAA)

  • Coral

    FILE - In this undated file photo released by Conservation International, a healthy coral reef is seen off the Caribbean island of Bonaire. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says the Caribbean's reefs are in sharp decline, with live coral coverage down to an average of just 8 percent, in a report released Sept. 7, 2012. That's down from 50 percent in the 1970s. (AP Photo/Andy Bruckner, NOAA Fisheries, File)

  • This image provided by NOAA shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor _ including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14. (AP Photo/NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2006 file photo provided by Centre of Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, fish swim amongst bleached coral near the Keppel Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world, acting as the "osteoporosis of the sea" and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Centre for Marine Studies, The University of Queensland, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, File)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 26, 2009 file photo, orange colored ringed rice coral, or montipora patula, is seen in waters off Waimanalo, Hawaii. A study by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says Americans value coral reefs around the main Hawaiian Islands at the amount of $33.57 billion. Researchers arrived at the figure by surveying 3,200 Americans across the nation and asking them how much of their income taxes they would want devoted to hypothetical initiatives to improve the health of Hawaii's coral reefs. (AP Photo/Keoki Stender, file)


    TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY PIERRE PRATABUY A scientist diver discovers the flora and fauna located on artificial reefs, by 30 meters deep (98.42 ft) on July 8, 2012 off shore of southern city of Marseille. The immersion in 2008 of nearly 30,000m3 (1.059.439 ft3) of artificial reefs in the bay of Marseilles rose to a return of the species. The presence of such some 200 hectars (494 acres) of artificial habitat for flora and fauna, located between the islands of Friuli and the Prado Bay, is 'the largest artificial reef made ??up in Europe,' said Didier Reault, French right wing party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) City delegate to boating, beaches and national park of the Calanques. A Big Blue in a 'good ecological status' in 2020 ? This is the aim of the Water Agency and of the Interregional Sea Directorates (DIRM), a French Minister of Ecology Department, providing a financing project of 600 million euros (737 millions dollars) over six years including 6 millions (7.37 millions dollars) to raise awareness. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/GettyImages)


    TO GO WITH AFP STORY INDONESIA-TOURISM-PAPUA-MINES, FEATURE BY LOIC VENNIN In this photograph taken on October 21, 2011 a diver explores the coral reef in the waters of Raja Ampat's Kri Island located in eastern Indonesia's Papua region. Called the last paradise on earth, Raja Ampat acrhipelago was nominated as World Heritage Site of UNESCO with its largely pristine environment considered as one of the most important marine biodiversity in the world. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD (Photo credit should read ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two-year-old Green Sea Turtle "Sea Biscu

    Two-year-old Green Sea Turtle 'Sea Biscuit' with her front left flipper missing, swims in a tropical reef aquarium at Oceanworld Manly, north of Sydney on May 20, 2011. Sea Biscuit who was rescued by Oceanworld staff in 2009 and was so badly injured when washed ashore that she lost her front left flipper, has been handraised by senior aquarist Marina Tsamoulos and has learnt to dive and swim with her remaining three flippers. World Turtle Day will be celebrated on May 23. AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows white coral syndrome in Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world, acting as the "osteoporosis of the sea" and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Australian Institute of Marine Science, File)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2009 file photo, fish swim near coral reefs in the waters in the waters of Tatawa Besar, Komodo islands, Indonesia. Coral gardens off the Komodo Islands were just a few months ago teeming with clouds of brightly colored reef fish, octopi with fluorescent banded eyes and black-and-blue striped sea snakes. Today, after being pounded by increasingly brazen blast fisherman, several diving sites within the U.N. World Heritage Site have been transformed into desolate grey moonscapes. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2009 file photo, coral reefs are seen in the waters of Tatawa Besar, Komodo islands, Indonesia. Coral gardens that were among Asia's most spectacular, teeming with colorful sea life just a few months ago, have been transformed into desolate gray moonscapes by fishermen who use explosives or cyanide to kill or stun their prey.(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)

  • A photo taken by a camera submerged into

    A photo taken by a camera submerged into a pond shows small fish seen swimming under thin ice in St. Petersburg park on February 13, 2011. PHOTO/ KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Environmental Groups Challenge Navy's Use Of Sonar In West Coast Training Exercises

    ABOARD THE MANUTEA, CA - JANUARY 30: Bottlenose dolphins swim ahead of the bow of a boat off the southern California coast on January 30, 2012 near Dana Point, California. A coalition that includes Native American tribes, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council is on the National Marine Fisheries Service for more protection for dolphins, whales, and other migrating marine animals from the use of sonar in training by the US Navy on the West Coast. Environmental groups argue that mid-frequency sonar alters the behavior of sound-sensitive marine life and, in some cases, causes fatal results. Some whales are believed to communicate across hundreds of miles of ocean through sound. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)