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.
Can I buy a camera system that allows me to shoot both video and digital stills underwater?
Yes. However, don’t expect a video camera to produce still photos that compare to what you’ll get with a dedicated digital still camera system. If all you want is snap shot quality images for use on a web site, you might be satisfied with the quality of stills you get from a video camera. A video camera is designed primarily to shoot video, and that’s what it does best.
How much diving experience should I have before starting in underwater video?
Rather than a number of logged dives or a number years diving, it’s the diver’s level of skill and confidence that needs to be considered. A diver should be very comfortable in the water, a master of buoyancy control, and capable of performing multiple tasks (multitasking) while diving safely.
What is the learning curve for underwater video?
The learning curve for underwater video is typically shorter than that when learning underwater still photography. A video camera’s auto-focus, auto-shutter speed, and auto-exposure features can be used to relieve the burden of having to manually fiddle with these settings between each shot. Using these automatic controls, you can concentrate more on shooting than figuring out exposures and still get decent results. Video cameras also work well in low-light, so you may be able to get by without lights until you gain experience with the fundamentals of shooting video underwater.
How do I playback and share my underwater video with others?
Most video cameras have composite A/V outputs and S-video output capability. So, you can hook them up directly to a TV, VCR, DVD recorder, or Tivo type device, and play the source video back directly from the camera itself. Most digital video cameras also have IEEE1394 (aka Firewire or iLink) ports to allow direct digital transfer of the source video from the camera to a recording device or PC based editing system. You can use a PC based editing system to convert the digital video to formats suitable for Internet streaming or burning your own DVD’s.
Do I need lights to start shooting underwater video?
No. Most video cameras operate quite well in low light situations. If you have ample sunlight, you can get great results without artificial light. In fact, when starting out, it might be better to not have your system equipped with lights. This simplifies the system physically and operationally, allowing you to get comfortable with the basics of the underwater camera system. Once you gain experience, you can add lights later for night diving and improving the appearance of foreground colors at daytime.
My underwater video looks very blue or dull without much color. What is wrong?
Water acts like a filter. It removes warm colors (primarily red) from light that passes through it. The more water the light passes through, the more the warm colors get filtered out. The most effective way to add warm colors back into your video during daytime is to use a color-correcting filter on the camera. URPro is one popular brand of color correcting filters for underwater video. A decent housing should include a color-correcting filter with option to remove and replace it underwater. Also, get close to your subject. The less water you are shooting through, the less distance the light has to travel from the subject to the lens, and such, less warm colors get filtered out by the water. Use of video lights is another great way to add warm color back into your foreground subjects that are within 3-4 feet of the camera. Finally, learning to utilize a camera’s manual white-balance control underwater can significantly help normalize the appearance of color.
My underwater video looks shaky. How can I reduce the shakiness when I shoot?
Don’t use the zoom control to zoom in. Keep the lens zoomed all the way out to wide-angle and get physically close to your subject instead. Also, use a wide-angle lens or wide-angle adapter. This will allow you to get closer and helps to minimize the effects of shaking. Finally, if your camera has a ‘steady-shot’ stabilization feature, turn it on before loading the camera into the housing.
Sometimes I get condensation inside my housing. How can I avoid this problem?
Assuming your have no leaks in your housing, the condensation is caused by moist air getting trapped in your housing when you loaded the camera into it. If the trapped air cools after you close the housing, which is quite possible once you take it underwater, it can reach its dew point and condensation can form inside the housing and inside the camera itself. To avoid this, load the housing in a cool and dry air environment whenever possible. An air-conditioned room is best. If for some reason you have to load your housing in a warm moist environment, like on the deck of a boat on a humid morning, you can try to gently blow some dry scuba air into the housing just before closing it. Just be very careful not to blow any water into the housing or camera if you use a second stage regulator to do this.