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Under Water, Over Land
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Old March 28th, 2011, 05:44 AM   #1
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Shooting underwater for first time help...

Will be shooting my first underwater shoot in a month and just wanted to get some feedback on what to expect from people who already done them.

The shoot will be following a model in a swimming pool and hopefully should have some Arri lights to light up the pool (still need to find out if there are going to be sockets there to plug in the lighting equipment as I'd imagine they woudn't keep that many sockets in the pool area...).
I'm using Epic underwater housing and since there are no external controls on the housing, it will be just push record and seal the camera in the housing.

I'm still not sure on which camera will be better for the shoot. I have a HPX170 and a 550D (t2i) with a choice of 50mm 1.4f lens or 17-85mm 3.5f). I take it the 550D and the 50mm will be better for low lighting under water, however since I wont be able to adjust the focus I'm worried that all my shots will be out of focus if I go for the DSLR option....

Anybody got any suggestions or know of things to watch out for during the shoot? All feedback is very much appreciated :)
HPX170 + Redrock M2 Encore, 550D, GoPro HD Hero, Indislider Pro and a KMart plastic bag
Michael Nickolai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 28th, 2011, 03:18 PM   #2
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Re: Shooting underwater for first time help...


When working underwater there a few things to think about,

Focus, if you are shooting behind a dome port you do in fact focus on a virtual image due to the refraction of water. This can assist you you in the fact that generally focus will not have to be altered too much.

Wide wide wide, you need to go wide and get close to your subject. Water is not good optically therefore you need to get close to your subject and eliminate the water. Don't go the 50mm go the 17-85 and don't zoom.
If you are in a pool you should not have a problem with light.
Manual white balance, white balance underwater even at a couple of meters, however be careful if you shoot up as you may end up with a pink tinge.

Shooting with a 550D you will need to practice with the housing to make sure that it is neutrally buoyant, if it is negative of positive your shot will be unstable.

To be perfectly honest the Panny would be a better option underwater, it would have a larger dof, easy to use and hopefully you will have access to all controls. Also if your footage is a little wobbly (depends how much underwater shooting you have done) it will look better on the Panny compared to the skew you will get from the 550D.
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Old March 28th, 2011, 08:12 PM   #3
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Re: Shooting underwater for first time help...

I concur. Use the 170 if there is enough light.

Big sensor DSLRs are good for cinematic drama. Not for shooting underwater in low light.

If you have to use the 550D since the housing is cheaper, pump as much light as possible into the pool, close the iris down and turn the ISO to 800, maybe 1600. Maybe even 3200 if you're comfortable cleaning it up in post with noise reduction like Neat Video, then close the iris down some more.

Neat Video - best noise reduction for digital video
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Old March 30th, 2011, 05:55 PM   #4
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Re: Shooting underwater for first time help...

Also if you use the 550D, see whether you can rid up or attach / use a tripod. If you lock it down you could get some really nice stuff.
Make sure that the model is wearing waterproof make up too, and check whether clothing goes see through underwater could be good or bad depending on what you are looking for.
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Old April 6th, 2011, 07:11 AM   #5
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Re: Shooting underwater for first time help...

I'd go for the 550D with the 17-85mm. I think the Epic has a flat port, so shouldn't cause any problems. Just test that the edges of the port arn't causing corner vingettes with the lens set at 17mm. If so, try to move the camera on the locking plate until the front of the lens almost touches the inside of the front glass. If this is not possible, then adjust lens to 20mm or 24mm until the corners of frame are clean without dark corners.

I much prefer natural light when filming in shallow water, so if it is an outdoor pool then I'd try to avoid underwater lighting if at all possible (depending on weather). Midday sun with the natural light cutting directly overhead will provide plenty of light for underwater. The camera if set correctly will show the beautiful beams of sunlight cutting through the water and provide a more emotional feeling to your video footage of the model. Only use the extra lighting for when you must provide extra detail to shadow areas.

The closer that you are to the subject, the better, so try to use your widest lens and film very tight. Most underwater housings become very stable below the surface. If the Epic is too buoyant, just add some small weights inside the housing casing.

Static UW footage is rarely interesting and so I would avoid locking the camera on the bottom with a tripod unless it is for a static UW stills shot or special purpose clips.

The fact that you will not be able to adjust the camera settings with the Epic, nor focus, nor stop/start is not a great problem as long as you try to maintain the same distance to your subject. Manually pre-focus the lens on the distance you will be filming the subject, and set a mid-f/stop for decent DOF prior to closing the Epic.

Wear decent flippers & mask and swim alongside/above/underneath your subject, with the camera held out in front of you and this will provide very smooth footage.

Do some UW test-runs with various camera settings, and then playback video to check how it looks.

Once you are happy with all the settings, you can leave the camera set at those levels for the whole shoot.

You'll rarely need to let the camera run beyond the HD time-limit, but the fact that you will need to surface and open up the Epic every approx 12-mins may become a bind (unless the external plunger on the Epic can stop-start the 550D).

I would seriously look into using a remote control for the 550D sealed inside a small plastic UW bag so as to stop/start the camera in video mode.

Another idea is to use both the 170 and 550D if both will fit your Epic. Just do half the shoot with the camcorder and half with the DSLR.
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