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Old April 13th, 2008, 03:59 PM   #1
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Underwater steadiness

Seeking advice on best techniques for holding camera steady underwater?? Any suggestions?

Thank you
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Old April 13th, 2008, 04:46 PM   #2
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I've seen people using squat, weighted underwater tripods. I'm guessing they are a bespoke item though!

Last edited by Mat Thompson; April 14th, 2008 at 04:38 AM.
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Old April 13th, 2008, 07:08 PM   #3
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Matt,

It depends on what your shooting. If it's in rivers or high current then extra lead and hugging the bottom is the solution, tripods are a good solution if there isn't a lot of current or there isn't coral that would be disturbed/killed by your tripod. Finally, and most importantly, keeping underwater shots steady comes with great bouyancy control skills and experience.
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Old April 13th, 2008, 08:56 PM   #4
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Jake,
I presume you mean while SCUBA diving? Best advice I could give you is:

1) Make sure that your buoyancy control is spot on
2) Make sure that the buoyancy of your camera feels good to you i.e. not too negative or positive
3) The bigger the camera and housing the easier it is. Having changed from a little Sony HC1 in an Ikelite to a Canon XHA1 in a Gate the Canon is loads easier.
4)Practise, Practise, Practise.
5) Use a tripod or place the camera (not on any living matter) for macro shots

Jon
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Old April 14th, 2008, 09:06 AM   #5
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Jon,

Yes, while SCUBA diving on the bottom, but also while swimming with or without SCUBA gear.

Is it acceptable (from a production standpoint) to swim and search with the camera, or simply face it straight ahead while filming?

My underwater equipment is limited to Sony HC7 w/ Ikelite...for now.

Jake
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Old April 14th, 2008, 06:12 PM   #6
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Jake,
What do you mean by swim and search? Are you talking about panning?You can do whatever you want, just try and keep all your movements slow and steady. Experiment and see what you thinks works and doesn't. I also advise diving with a buddy that doesn't mind waiting around a bit. When you get something interesting take a few moments to get everything right, slow your breathing and then shoot. You won't be able to get good footage following a group of people at a million miles an hour.

Jon
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Old April 15th, 2008, 08:08 AM   #7
 
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As Jon stated above, buoyancy is definitely a major concern. If you have poor buoyancy control you may need to hand out dramamine to everyone that watches your videos.
If at all possible, use a tripod.

One thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't plan on getting 40 minutes of good footage out of a 45 minute dive. Being disciplined will pay off in the long run, you'll get much higher quality shots if you take your time and get them right each time. Just as you should plan your dive, you should also plan out each of your shots.

If you come out of the water with a couple of minutes of good footage then you should be pleased.
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Old April 15th, 2008, 08:57 AM   #8
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thanks fellas!! thats what i needed to hear...
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Old April 15th, 2008, 11:37 AM   #9
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In case the most important bit wasn't mentioned (!)

Bouyancy, bouyancy, buoyancy.

Don't ever feel tempted to grab hold of something like a coral or a rusting wreck. If you must steady yourself, use one finger - preferably without gloves.

Underwater videography requires far greater breathing control, too.

John.

PADI Instructor and Underwater Videographer.
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Old April 15th, 2008, 06:24 PM   #10
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Joe made a great point about the amount of footage taken, even on a great dive for 60 mins I would only probably shoot 20mins of footage and if I got 10 good 10 sec clips from that I would be pretty happy.

I don't know what other shoot / actually use ratio is?

The HC7 is a great camera, do you have lights to shoot with for macro or deeper stuff?
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Old April 15th, 2008, 10:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jonathan Shaw View Post
The HC7 is a great camera, do you have lights to shoot with for macro or deeper stuff?

Not yet...up to this point I have only shot in water 30 feet or less in very clear Caribbean waters...and I love to night dive. However, I also want to shoot footage in fresh water as I live on a relatively clear water lake in western Nebraska. I am particularly interested in documenting walleye habits...so I know a light will be a must.

I have the Ikelite 6039.07 housing...what light would you recommend?

Also, when filming a shot underwater, do you prefer to hold the camera close to your body, in front or what? My natural instinct is to hold the camera out and in front, but my steadiness is less than acceptable for my standards.

What about focus mode? manual or auto? Presumably auto, but I have to ask because I did some night filming while releasing walleyes and in auto focus the camera hunted as the underwater invertebrates suspend in the water column.

Regarding the camera and housing, is it better to have a slightly negative bouyancy...or exactly neutral?

Thanks, guys!!
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Old April 15th, 2008, 11:02 PM   #12
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I recommended this lighting system:

http://www.ikelite.com/web_pages/videolite.html

It's designed specifically for Ikelite housings. I've had this system since 1995 and have used it with two housings (soon to be three).

You should have your housing etc. slightly negative.

I attached the housing to my body with the springy cables that have quick release clips. This allows me to have the housing close to my body without having to hold on to it but also let me hold it out at a comfortable distance.

Depending on your boat, you'll need to consider how the housing is attached to you, how quickly and easily you can unclip at the surface etc.

If you are diving with a group and covering some distance, you will find that your air consumption will be greater than usual and you may have to work a bit harder to catch up. This is due to the extra drag. You may also find that you get so engrossed with a shot that when it is over, you have some catching up to do!

Two things I always remind myself to do are:

Once in the water, waft your hand in front of the lens port to get rid of tiny air bubbles

Pay attention to whether the camcorder is recording or not!

Sounds stupid but your mental faculties are diminished and even the simplest things can get overlooked.

I have tapes with shots on them with little bubbles on the lens port and shots missing because when I pressed record, it was already recording and so went into stand-by!

But it's FANTASTIC to do!

Re focus - *don't* use auto. It will hunt and, if unlucky, lock on to a piece of dirt on the lens port (possibly even inside - I've had that happen). I prefer to use auto to get the focus and then switch to manual to effectively lock it. The Ikelite housing will have a control that operates the auto/inf/manual slider (or the HC7 equivalent).

Holding it - I like to hold the housing at a position similar to a steering wheel from a driver. Because you can view the video on an LCD display, you don;t have to hold it right up to your face to use the viewfinder. Many of my early video dives I saw in black-and-white. Thankfully, technology has improved and now I get to enjoy the dive in its full glory, too, while operating the camcorder.
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Old April 16th, 2008, 12:34 AM   #13
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The first few tapes I shot underwater were interesting to me but largely unuseable for showing to a wider audience. Aside from needing to improve my techniques, the biggest problem was that I failed to stick with any particular subject for more than a few seconds. If you can discipline yourself to get at least 10 to 20 seconds of every scene before you allow yourself to be intrigued by something else that will increase your rate of success with filming underwater.

Pat
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Old April 16th, 2008, 08:33 AM   #14
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John,

Do you have the 50 watt or 100 watt light head?

Thanks
Jake
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Old April 16th, 2008, 05:50 PM   #15
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I have the 50W. I don't think the 100W was available at the time.
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