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Senad Svraka February 11th, 2010 08:46 AM

Which gear for a sailing expedition?
Hi all!

This is my first post so I first want to let everyone know how much I appreciate the wealth of expertise that can be found on this forum. I have spent entire nights reading thru old threads and I must say that I have learned a lot. Yet, one is never done learning...

Now, to my topic. I plan a sailing and diving expedition to the Red Sea. My partner will do the underwater video, while my duty would be to shoot the "dry" stuff: i.e. above the water, (which BTW is not necessarily going to be all that dry...)

I am a trained cameraman and I fully understand the advantages of the pro gear. However, for many reasons, on this project, I want to use the smallest gear possible. My current plan is to take 3 Canon's HV30 cameras and to record on a nanoFlash using XDCAM codec at 50Mbps. I am aware that with the HV30, the lack of manual controls is an issue. However, this camera is supposed to provide a decent picture, before the HDV compression. This is at least what I have read in the nanoFlash thread.

I do have a concern on whether the HV30 outputs the HDMI signal in case of condensation which would prevent the tape from rolling. For that reason, I consider also the Canon HFS100 which is tapeless and should not suffer from the condensation or vibrations issues. But I don't know whether it's possible to mix footage from these two cameras.

The goal is to produce a 90 minutes "sort of Jacques Cousteau" documentary on the Red Sea, the islands, the birds, the coral and the fishes.

Any thoughts and comments would be welcome, concerning both the choice of equipment and advice from people who used to work in similar conditions (sailing boat and reduced crew).


John Wiley February 11th, 2010 03:56 PM

What sort of boat will you be sailing on? A 20ft yacht or a an 80ft motor cruiser? Will you be living aboard, or returning to port each day?

The first thing I would advise is to invest in pelican cases for EVERYTHING. Laptop, cameras, accessories, and a seperate one for all your stored footage, whether it be on hard drive, SD cards or tape.

Why not consider a few of the Canon AVCHD cameras? An HFS10 as your main camera and an HF20 in a water housing would pair up nicely. Canon make a water housing for the HF20 which is cheaper than any of the other brands. SD cards are cheaper than CompactFlash so you'll get more record time for your money with these cameras. I'm not sure how well the Panasonic cameras mix with the Canon's but the HMC40 would give you good manual control and XLR audio in a very small package. I've heard great things about that camera and i know a few guys who are using them to shoot surfing in custom housings.

I don't know if the nanoflash is really necassary, especially if it's small and compact that you want. Plus you'll need LOTS of compact Flash cards - I'm assuming you'll have your laptop with you to offload your footage, but you'll still need plenty of cards to get through a days shooting. 3x cameras shooting for 2 hours a day @ 50mbps = about 200GB worth of cards needed. With the AVCHD camera's you'll want to convert to Cineform/ProRes for editing so you'll get a very robust codec anyway. However, I've never used a nanoFlash so don't know how much quality you will gain by using it.

Also consider that if you can't put the nanoFlash inside the housing (could be possible with some housings/custom housings but I'm not sure) then half your footage will be HDV and the rest will be XDCAM so you'll have to manage your workflow in post better.

If the seas get rough then a tripod will be useless as the boat will rock too much, so you might want to consider a steadicam.

Also you might want to look at some of the plastic bag style splash housings for when you are filming on the surface. Other things to pack are polariser filters, plenty of cleaning cloths/lens cleaner solution and a WA lens for all those confined spaces on boats.

Good luck, it sounds like a great project to be working on!

Senad Svraka February 11th, 2010 06:32 PM

John thanks for the reply.

I didn't include all the details because I didn't want to make my first post tooooo long.

The boat is a 39' sailing boat and we will be two guys spending several months in the Red Sea. Liveaboard. No marinas every day. We intend to explore the wild side of the Red Sea.

When I talk about 3 cams, well, two are for backup. I will always be shooting with one camera at a time. So one nanoFlash will do and the footage will always be XDCAM. I don't like the AVCHD (even though I can't tell why). I would carry a few HD drives and just unload my CF cards to the drives. Should be OK.

I have a lot of sailing experience and I know how destructive is the salty atmosphere for the consumer grade stuff. Also, one single unexpected splash of sea water would ruin the camera, so the cheaper the better.

I already have some experience with the HV30. Last year I shot a documentary in Africa with two of those. Even though the HDV captured with these cameras still looks pretty nice, I want to try to get a little more: full 1920x1080 HD and a better codec. This project is more ambitious than the previous one.

The nanoFlash can stay in the cabin when shooting on the boat. A 10m HDMI cable should work fine. Otherwise, all the gear will have to be heavily protected when transporting it in the dinghy and so on.

Comments welcome.

Senad Svraka February 14th, 2010 09:16 PM

After a reading on the HMC-40, I might start to lean in that direction. The camera seems to be very well considered. And for the price of the nano, I can almost get two of these. The only thing that puts me off is that dreadful AVCHD codec...

John Wiley February 14th, 2010 10:16 PM

The HMC40 should be great for your needs. I've seen footage which is incredibly sharp from it - much better looking than my aging Sony FX7 which also has 1/4 inch chips.

I wouldn't worry too much about the codec because most people who do serious editing with this footage use an intermediate codec such as Cineform. You'll get bigger filesizes but a much nicer editing experience.

The other great thing is that if you get the HMC40, then the Panasonic TM300 would make a prefect second camera (at half the price) because it uses the same chips. With the money you save there, you can get a few Pelican cases to keep everything safe!

Andrew Khalil February 15th, 2010 11:55 PM

I think the HMC-40 will be great as well. I've actually been to the Red Sea a lot - I've done a lot of underwater work there so let me know if you have any other questions about it. One thing I'm wondering about is when you'll be going - I can pretty much guarantee you the weather there during the summer will be sunny with no rain or clouds in site, and very hot.
Water conditions are usually calm, so I wouldn't expect the boat to be caught in any positions where there's a lot of splashing or water around, unless of course you're in a dive area with people getting in and out of the water. For those moments, you may want a simple splash/rain cover. If you're shooting in the sun, draping a white cloth over the camera and keeping it in a backpack when not in use helps keep it cool.
Hope this helps - the Red Sea is incredible and absolutely stunning. Should be a beautiful video in the end when combined with the underwater footage.

Senad Svraka February 17th, 2010 08:33 AM

Thanks for the feedback. I have been in the Red Sea in 2006. Actually, I have sailed from France to Thailand and then back across the Indian Ocean to a small French island Mayotte where I sold my boat. The whole trip took three years! You can see the details of my sailing expedition on my web site:

Barba 22

It's a very basic amateur site with the only goal to provide information so - disregard the design :-)

For this new expedition, I will travel on a friend's boat and he will be doing the underwater stuff. Unfortunately we cannot afford pro underwater gear and he will be using a Sony HMC9. But I want to find the best solution for the "above the water", yet lightweight and not too expensive.

Honestly, I didn't think much good about the HMC-40 until I have read what people have posted on this forum. There seem to be some very biased reviews against this camera on the net...

It appears that the picture is very sharp. Is it sharper than the HV-30? Is it, in general terms, a better camera than the HV30? (Originally I wanted to stick with the HV30 because I already have one, with WA adapters, filters etc).

Also, I understand that I will have to transcode for editing, but isn't AVCHD codec quite destructive? Clipping the highlights, turning all the shadows pitch black... I'm basically a cameraman and don't understand very well all those codec related issues...

Andrew: I would appreciate if you can share with us some "secrets" about the good spots you might have discovered. My friend has been in the Red Sea many times, but it's a big sea, bigger than it looks on a world map...

Our plan is to explore the islands, rather than the coast, with some known exceptions (samadai etc)

Thanks for the input.

Andrew Khalil February 17th, 2010 12:19 PM

I think the HV30 is a great camera, but the HMC-40 is 1080p and doesn't use HDV. The AVCHD codec is a more efficient codec than HDV, so your final images should look better in terms of compression.
Also, in terms of handling, the HV30's size makes it less ideal than the HMC-40 since it has a full size zoom rocker, top handle and focus ring etc.
In terms of some great spots, it depends what you'd like to see and do. I've mostly done diving and underwater work, so I've looked for the sites with the best marine life and such. Definitely check out Ras Mohammed Marine Park at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula - it's beautiful along with the Straits of Tiran and all the sites there. If you want some night life, Na'ama Bay in downtown Sharm is a lot of fun and never sleeps. Further down, El Gouna, just north of Hurghada is a really nice town with some great dive sites as well as some great topside stuff too.

Robert Morane February 19th, 2010 10:59 AM

I am not so "codec" savvy, but here is a reminder of what the HV30, as a travel and documentary camera, is capable of:

The guy who shot this is an inspiration, look at his other stuff as well.

Senad Svraka February 20th, 2010 01:19 PM

This is a nice clip, very good editing, thanks Robert. Now I know how to wash my elephant ;-)

As I have said, last year I have shot a documentary in Sahara with the HV30 and I'm very pleased with the look of the picture from that camera, right out of the box. I did very, very little color correction in post. However, condensation can be a real problem on the sea and that's one of the reasons why I'd like to go tapeless.

Regards. Senad

Robert Morane February 20th, 2010 01:35 PM

Have you consider the the HFS100, in the US it's cost is falling down since the next model will be release in 2 months. You would have the tapeless and a great 58mn HD canon lense. Another advantage is the lower power consumption of the battery, a great advantage at sea.
Of course it is AVCHD, but with Sony new line of NXCAM pro camera it is getting difficult to keep trashing the format as non-professionel.

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