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Basic video shooting techniques overview

Most rules of topside video are applicable when shooting underwater video. Composition involves the same elements and guidelines such as the rule of thirds, leading looks, leading lines, and color balance. However, the underwater environment adds some new challenges to conquer in order to get decent video.

Here are the sections of this article to read over for basic video shooting techniques:

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Underwater Video Camera Lights

As underwater still photography benefits from strobes, underwater video is better with video lights. Water strips warm colors from sunlight as you dive deeper. Artificial lights sources (video lights) help to add the warm colors back into your shots during daylight, and they provide a primary source of light during night dives.

If you’re new to underwater video and only dive in open water during daylight, consider just adding video lights down the road. Most of today’s camcorders have relatively decent low-light sensitivity so you may be content with the results you get without video lights. One you gain experience you’ll have a better idea if you’ll benefit from video lights.

Most housing manufacturers sell video lightning kits that are designed to integrate well with their housings. These kits include light heads, arms, cables, switch assemblies, and battery packs. Several flavors of lightning technologies are available. Halogen is the most reliable and inexpensive. HID (high-intensity discharge) systems provide a whiter light and longer burn times per battery charge with the trade-off of being less reliable and more expensive to maintain.

Underwater Video Frequently Asked Questions

What does an underwater video system cost?
Like anything else, the start up cost of getting into underwater video spans a range depending on the results and features you require. Basic underwater digital video systems w/o lights start around $900 new. At the far high end, a full featured prosumer-level HD system including HIDlights and an external monitor can run over $16,000.
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Underwater Video Overview

Shooting video of the Eagle Wreck, Islamorada, FL - Photo: Steve Straatsma

For the recreational diver, shooting underwater video is one of the best ways to re-live a dive. Video captures images with the added elements of motion, time, and sound. The marine environment is loaded with unique animated creatures. Their behavior, and even character, is best represented on full motion video.

Recent advancements in consumer level technology have made it more practical for recreational divers to participate in underwater video. Systems have become smaller, more feature packed, simpler to use, and of course, less expensive. The quality of the images they record are better than ever thanks to advancements in CCD sensor technology and DV (digital video) recording formats. Thus, it makes sense for a diver with interest in underwater imagery to consider video as an option.

In our Underwater Photo/Video section, we take a look at the equipment required for shooting underwater video and what to look for when selecting your components. We also look at basic techniques for shooting video and touch on editing and DVD authoring.

Housing material

Look for housings made of strong and rigid materials. The two most common materials are aluminum and polycarbonate. Other acceptable materials are polyurethane composites and ABS. Don’t bother with bag style housings. They are cheap, but aren’t well suited for diving and provide little physical protection to the camera.

Aluminum housings are usually the most durable and have the highest depth rating, typically 330 feet. They are also the most expensive since they require a lot of machining to make. The prominent makers of aluminum housings are Amphibico, Gates, and Light and Motion.

Ikelite is the most known maker of polycarbonate housings. Polycarbonate is a durable thermoplastic. It has the advantage of being clear. Thus, you can easily see inside the housing and quickly spot any leaks. Polycarbonate housings are much less expensive than aluminum housings and can safely operate to depths of 200 feet.

UnderSea Video and Ocean Images make housings with polyurethane composites. These are durable yet lightweight and are safe at depths from 200 to 250 feet. Sea and Sea manufactures housings from ABS plastic resins that are rated to depths of 200 feet.