View Full Version : Shooting sailboats in extreme conditions
April 29th, 2008, 11:14 AM
as a journalist, I have the opportunity to cover sailing events for a french magazine, as I recently did on http://www.deliac.fr/jri/voiles.html.
This time was easy, as I could shoot from the shore, but next times will be in dramatically toughest conditions : I will probably shoot alone from a small zodiac, or from sailboats, with heavy rain and/or rough seas, etc.
Now I have a small budget to buy the necessary gear, and for such specific conditions, a lot of questions come to my mind, although I've already found a lot of answers on this excellent forum. So I would be glad if any sailors on this forum could help me...
1) For the camera, I am considering buying a Sony V1, Canon A1 or Sony Z1. Which one would be the more adapted for this kind of shooting ? Which one has the best IOS ? Any suggestion for another cam in the same prices ?
2) Is it convenient to use a shoulder support when shooting from a small moving boat (zodiac, sailboat) and when you need to keep one hand for you if you don't want to finish in the water ?
3) is it possible to use the camera buttons (zoom, focus, etc.) when using the EWA Marine housing ? Or in this case do you have to be "full automatic" ?
Is it possible to use the wide angle w/ this housing ? Can you use the viewfinder ? What about the sound ?
4) For the sound, I intend to buy a EW100 G2 Sennheiser HF set with a TR 50 TRAM lav, and a KM 185 Neuman. How can I protect the mics from water or humidity ?
If anyone has answers to this or any additional advice, that would be fantastic !
Thks for your help,
April 29th, 2008, 02:19 PM
I film a lot of shows on the water and have quite a bit of experience with boats of all types and you may want to rethink the Zodiac idea. Trying to film out of Zodiak with high winds, waves and rain and pilot the craft at the same time I dare say would be next to impossible. Well you could do it but I would bet you wouldn't get any useable footage. Even the hard bottomed Zodiacs have a "pulsing" motion as they go through the water that is very evident on video. The only success I have had related to sail boats and a small zodiac was anchoring on the inside of a turning buoy, but the seas were fairly calm.
As far as camera's go, I use the A1.
I use the fig rig rather than a shoulder mount because it gives me more lattitude and for me I can take much more movement out of the camera with the fig rig. And remember you and your subject are always under motion so keep the camera moving. Panning left or right, even slowly takes the viewers attention away from the up and down movement of the boat your filming on.
Also if you're filming on a sailboat, keeping close to the centerline (middle) makes it easier to keep the horizon correct. Listing on a boat is one thing, for camera work it's bad. Usually near the helm is a good spot as long as you keep out of the captains way! You can also get good video of the crew changing directions from this spot.
Most importantly, clean that lens! I don't even want to think about how many times I muttered "that would have been nice except for those water spots".
As far as the wireless mics I have those same ones. On some fishing boats, with all the elctronics sometimes they work fine, other times they don't. Like always try before you fly. Good Luck!
April 29th, 2008, 04:35 PM
Thanks a lot for your interesting advice.
For the zodiac, I did not intend to pilot and shoot at the same time. I am no Shiva with 8 arms and I am supposed to have a pilot in this case... Anyway I'm afraid I won't have the choice of the kind of boat from where I will shoot, the best would be an helicopter of course, but...
You did not say if your A1 is a Canon or Sony and how you protect it ?
About the fig rig : can you use it w/ a single hand ? What price is it ?
April 29th, 2008, 11:53 PM
You will have a challenge on your hands! I would definitley check out the EWA bags, they are not cheap for what they are but will protect the camera. Stability will be your biggest challenge as you will know, I have done some filming form an inflatable for Cowes week (big sailing regatta) in the UK. I actually rigged up a harness that you attach to the boat, so it will hold you in place and leave both hands free for shooting. Make sure that it has a quick release of some sort just in case the worse happens.
With regards to camera I have an XHA1, and love it, it is slightly smaller than a Z1 which is good...
I don't reckon that OIS is goinf to make a massive difference, I ended up doing a fair amount of post in After Effects and Shake.
Also do you get seasick (even slightly) as while concentrating on filming it can make you feel rough as hell! I don't really get seasick but take medication anyway... You cannot work and be sick at the same time!
April 30th, 2008, 02:28 AM
I think I'll have to buy the EWA bag, but when I looked at one of those,
I could not figure how to use the camera settings (zoom, focus, etc.),
or the wide angle w/ this housing.
What about the mics ? Any possibility of protecting them
from salt water / rain ?
thks for your help.
Francois (Francoise is for a girl)
PS : I liked your website, special mention to your photo...
April 30th, 2008, 09:58 PM
When I used the EWA bag push buttons are easy, roller knobs are harder but can be done. I was just shooting stuff for a Uni and they didn't care about sound... To be honest you'll just hear the outboard on the back of the zodiac anyway.
May 1st, 2008, 03:40 AM
Does the wide angle fits the EWA bag ?
May 1st, 2008, 04:22 AM
You might want to check out this thread regarding a Sony A1E with sports housing:
I used the Sony A1E for a transatlantic crossing. It a very good camera in good light. In fact I'm in advanced discussions with a sailing magazine about putting the film on the cover as a DVD so they are obviously happy with the picture quality.
I have a Canon XH A1 too but the A1E is much smaller and more compact and more suitable for use on a moving boat.
Like you I have to do some more shooting on the water. Probably on a very wet multihull. My thinking at the moment is that I will use the Sony inside this casing with my Fig Rig but leave the back of the casing off and tape it up with plastic. I've got a Zoe remote control which I will mount on the Fig Rig and will try to waterproof that. That will allow me to zoom in and out. I will use the auto exposure function on the camera and will focus using the push autofocus function on the camera via the lanc controller.
For the sound I'm planning to use the microphone in the sports housing as a guidetrack and record separate sound into a Fostex FR2 LE. If you have not done this, it's very easy to sync up as long as you have sound on the video tape as a guide track.
You cannot use wide angle adaptor in the EWA bag for the A1E. I suspect that it is the same story for the A1. There is room for one in the sports housing.
You can't use a EWA bag with a tripod, Fig Rig or any kind of mount because it's flexible. I bought one. I gave up trying to use it and have now sold it.
I agree with the comments about shooting from a moving rib. It probably is very difficult but not impossible if the rib is big enough and you use a Fig Rig. I came across some stills photographers in the BVI recently who were shooting boats from small ribs. They were using harness anchored to the floor of the boat to give them stability.
From my own experience of boats (I own an Avon Searider although I don't use if for filming) I would suggest using a boat like this with the deepest possible V section hull (for the softest ride) with a floodable water compartment in the bottom of the hull (for stability when stopped). Certainly when at rest the Searider is very stable. Like being on a much bigger boat.
Coincidentally the link in my signature below takes you to a short film that I shot with the XH A1 and the A1E, so you can compare the image quality if you wish.
May 1st, 2008, 05:19 AM
thanks for your help. I checked your "frog party" and really enjoyed it
(and I don't say that because I'm french), the quality of the image is really excellent, which is very rare for an internet footage.
Back to my nautical considerations, a specialist in Paris also recommended me to use the A1E because it can fit a small waterproof case like Sealux, which would not be too heavy for this kind of cam :
But then the problem is about the quality of the A1E : how does it work in low light conditions, or in very high light (as we may encounter at sea), is it necessary to use filters ? If yes, what kind of filters ?
Could you explain why you leave the back of the casing off and tape it up with plastic ?
About the fig rig, I've never used one, is it not too big on a small boat ? Should you recommend it more than a shoulder cross ?
Shooting at sea is definitely a challenge !
Rick L. Allen
May 1st, 2008, 05:49 AM
I spend a lot of time shooting on boats and I highly recommend you get a full size camera with gyrozoom or stabilizer. Why? 1. the larger cameras have more mass and help dampen bumps when on your shoulder. 2. prosumer cams are light weight and amplify any movement on a boat.
Also, if you shoot from a RIB it will be all but impossible to maintain a usable framing for any decent length of time because of the bouncing. You and your gear will get soaked as RIBs are wet boats and you will continuously have water and spray on the lens. Like the previous poster said a deep V hulled large boat will serve you better and keep you out of the spray.
Finally, at the very least you will need a hurricane rated rain cover for the camera.
May 1st, 2008, 06:54 AM
that's why I asked about the fig rig or shoulder support. That may transform a tiny prosumer cam into a fullsize one.
Unfortunately, my budget is too small for a shoulder cam w/ gyro zoom...
Thks for your contribution.
May 1st, 2008, 07:30 AM
I'm glad you enjoyed the film :-)
The housing in your link looks good.
The main reason for using the Sony housing with the back off is so that I can see through the eyepiece properly and so that I can connect the lanc controller.
There is a lanc controller built into the housing but it only controls zoom and start/stop. Not push autofocus.
The A1E is not good in low light.
In high light conditions you need to use a neutral density filter in addition to what the camera does. There is a good paper on the settings for the camera here:
I'm not very technical but my understanding is that the chip operates best within a fairly narrow range of light. And that it is desirable not to overload it with too much light. It can compensate for this internally but it doesn't do so very well so external nd filters are useful to control bright light so that the chip can operate within it's comfort zone.
You could use a polarizing filter too. I used mine once. If you are doing a lot of action work, which sounds like what you are doing, I would think that it is too fiddly to be worth using.
A UV filter too, of course.
As for the Fig Rig. It depends on what you are shooting. If it's an interview on board a moving boat I found that the best way was to fix the camera. I used a tripod plate mounted to a Manfrotto superclamp with a lockable universal joint. That worked well. You can usually find a stanchion, pulpit, handrail etc to fix it to. I would say that I shot 75% per cent of my Atlantic film this way and the rest with the Fig Rig.
You have the problem on a boat however that you really want one hand for yourself and one for the boat. So if you are shooting with a Fig Rig on deck, using both hands, you stand a good chance of falling off the boat. You need to sit down or brace yourself in the companionway - which can make you unpopular.
When moving around the boat the Fig Rig is quite handy to carry and move around with. You can't put it down very easily but I have recently learned that there is an accessory that lets you fix it to a tripod plate which could be useful if fixed to a superclamp (I don't think a universal joint would take the weight though).
I was thinking of the Fig Rig primarily for use from a rib or for filming one boat from another. If you can stabilise and secure the lower part of your body by sitting on something or using a harness (perhaps with two attachment points so that you have a V that you can lean back against) you will then be able to use your arms and upper body to stabilise the Fig Rig. It doesn't need weight. It works if you hold your hands out because the muscles in the arms and upper body naturally act as shock absorbers. It may not be for you. Borrow or hire one and find out. There is a thread on DV Info somewhere about it which would be worth reading.
Looking back I think that there are times when a bean bag could have been useful to support the camera.
Finally - one thing. Someone discussed whether you keep the horizon level or let the horizon move with the boat. I couldn't work this one out before I did the Atlantic trip. And all I would say now is that it depends on the shot. But I guess you have had enough experience to have your own views on that.
You're right. It's not easy.
May 8th, 2008, 08:28 AM
I just had to butt in .. I use a waterproof Sanyo for kitesurfing, and do not have much to add ... but one of the best 'boat' videos I've seen is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWINygISxDE (I'm sure there are "better" ...but few make me as happy watching..)
...too bad there's not a high resolution version. Cheers.
May 8th, 2008, 08:55 AM
thanks jim for this awesome video.
I believe most of the shooting is done from helico, which helps...
May 12th, 2008, 10:02 AM
This thread is very interesting for me. Thanks!
I use to shoot windsurf and sailing (centreboard) either from beach or from a boat ( zodiac)
I have a Sony V1, with Sony wide angle 0.8 X, Sony HF lavallier microphon, Sennheiser ME62 and ME66
This cam is right the good size, I think...Between a Canon XHA1 and a Sony A1
While on board shooting, I do'nt like to use any shoulder support ( Varizoom DV mediarig, better to shoot from the beach). I ask the pilot to stay as close as possible to the subject and I use very short focal lengths, so the picture is not too bad ( depending of meteo, of course..I'm often filming on flat water, lakes etc...)
I try to stay sitted down, two hands on the cam, elbows tight against the body.
I have the specific EWA marine housing for V1/FX7. It's possible to use the Sony wide angle, but it is very tight, and so, very difficult to move the focus and zoom ring. I purchase on E-Bay the EWA marine wide angle and it's better ( but it's not possible to use full zoom)
Good tip: it's possible to use the HF system with the EWA ( I had to change the XLR connector , connector vith right angle instead of normal..)
No internal microphon on the V1, so, impossible to get any sound through the housing, and external microphon cannot be used ( no room enough) .
The Lavallier and the sender are easy to protect under the clothes, and I can allso protect the sender in an Aquapac housing.
I use EWA marine especially to shoot windsurf "from inside" ( in the water until the waist) ,and I plan to use it also to shoot from a boat when the sea is choppy....but it's not easy. It's much easier to use a regular rain coat.Sometimes, it's enough and efficient.
I thought the Fig Rig was something like a Steadicam, unusuable in wind...I understand I was wrong, and it's very interessant. Not too expansive, nor heavy. Any shooting to show, Richard?
Beautiful picture, Jim...I was in Douarnenez and enjoyed this "Grand Prix Petit Navire 2006" ( my shooting from the wharf are not so spectacular...)
May 12th, 2008, 11:57 AM
I thought the Fig Rig was something like a Steadicam, unusuable in wind...I understand I was wrong, and it's very interessant. Not too expansive, nor heavy. Any shooting to show, Richard?
Thanks for your input. More useful information. I may be asking you for advice at some future time.
OK. Here are some extracts. I put a password onto the site because the voiceover is a little embarrassing! It's not meant to be _the_ voiceover. It's my way of writing it - I find it easier to record and re-record until it sounds alright. I don't like writing it down as a script.
Here's the link:
The password is:
All of it was shot with the Sony A1 in the Fig Rig but I'm not sure about the last shot. I think that I may have been using a Manfrotto superclamp with universal joint and tripod plate fixed to the companionway handrail.
Looking at it for the first time in a couple of months I must say that the picture looks a bit rubbish. I think that is a result of my encoding. I use a different method now. You can see the frog film on the same site looks a lot better.
I hope it's useful.
May 12th, 2008, 12:43 PM
Thanks for the link to the video. It brought a smile to my face for sure.
While we are at it. For those who haven't seen it here's another way to film a sailboat:
Another idea I looked into was putting a camera on the end of pole. On a rolling boat the Sony A1 would have been too heavy but it might work with a bullet cam. But HD versions of those aren't cheap!
Here's a video taken from what looks like small rib and it's quite smooth although the ride looks quite choppy. Actually this may be just an excuse to link to a video of one of those amazing foiler Moths which is tacking. Never seen them do that before. Amazing.
....... on second viewing, it's not that smooth. Probably handheld. I think I was too knocked out by the boat to focus on the filming :-)
May 13th, 2008, 04:42 AM
Thank you Richard.
This is ( the link to vimeo ) a great footage, nice to see how the boat is pitching, while horizon and waves are staying horizontal.
Your encoding way looks very good too ( better that most of videos on Vimeo)
I enjoyed the wonderful "frog party" too, and not only because I am french.
It's the first time I see this kind of shooting with kite ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKGupz_9mGc) except kitesurfing with bullet camera.
Bullet camera is a good way to get amazing pictures, I use it in windsurfing, as here:http://blip.tv/file/363552/
But even with 550lines cam, the quality is about the same as Hi8, difficult to match with HDV...
May 13th, 2008, 06:06 AM
I love the footage of the Moth.. It reminds me of iceboating back in Wisconsin. The footage seemed pretty stable to me - I suspect it would have been a mess in the average chop of an open bay with the same wind.
Here's what I call a 'kite cam'..
It's attached to the center strut of one of my kites. I've made a variety of rigs for this Sanyo. I'm making a WP, plexi box for the Canon HD HF10 so I can park it on a tripod in the shallows - then my local crew can act up in front of it. I expect to seal the box on shore and operate the cam with Canon's hand remote in a sealed baggie. A camera is a magnet - it's like watching people walk past a mirror.
May 14th, 2008, 04:16 AM
Hi Odile and Jim
Very interesting posts!
Odile - I loved your film. The bullet cam works so well from all angles. Wow, those gybes. Makes me want to try it.
The music worked really well. Did you get a friend to drum to the film or was it a recording?
BTW my encoding was done using the presets in Avid Liquid. It was shot interlaced and converted to WMV as 720p in Liquid and uploaded to Vimeo who, of course, convert to Flash. I'm not very technical. I think I've got that right.
Jim - Thanks for the photo.
Do we get to see any footage of what you've shot? It sounds like you are doing some great stuff too.
I haven't seen this camera before. Is this the one you are using:
BTW is that Wet Stuff holder something you can buy off the shelf?
I know nothing about kites. Do you have any tips? I'm wondering if I might use a kite cam myself.
May 14th, 2008, 08:09 AM
Thank you Richard.
This is a free music from "smartsound" available in ...Avid Liquid !( named "Tribal theory")
I'll try your way to encode for vimeo. I thought I had to use H264 720p, the files are less heavy, but the results after encoding to flash is not so good
as WMV HD...
May 14th, 2008, 09:58 AM
I didn't think anyone else still used Liquid but I suppose it's natural if you are a sailor ;-)
I think it's straightforward but send me a message if you have any questions about settings as we are a bit off topic.
May 15th, 2008, 06:08 AM
Sorry for the delay Richard..'got busy. That's the camera. It's a sweet little piece to fart around trying some stuff... Amazon has it in the US for around $400.
Wet Stuff is me. I made clothing for the surf trade for a decade - before the Chinese made better product at 1/2 the price. I do these little bits half-heartedly. It keeps the taxman out of my sports.. Here's the same item attached to my leg. I had to change the position to the inside of the leg because it got knocked off. ..I found it later. (..then added a neon float. It was HARD to see in rough water!)
Stick with the single-line kites like you see that singlehanded sailor on YouTube, if filming is your sport. Kitesurfing kites are very demanding. Somebody, worldwide, dies about every 8-10 weeks doing it.
Getting ready to add it to a rowing shell. I want to put it well outboard of the end of the rigger, so you can record the stroke. Who knows...
May 15th, 2008, 08:19 AM
That's very cool. I bet you get some good footage with it.