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Looking for a last-minute Christmas present? Treat yourself to a GoPro or something similar! Miniature cameras like the GoPro and similar products are so tiny they have revolutionised much of the wildlife photography we nowadays see on our television screens. They are good for taking into situations that you would never contemplate taking a conventional camera.
Video cameras were miniaturised even before digital stills cameras and for this reason may divers have taken up underwater video-making. Miniaturisation means that submarine housings for them are no longer enormous and they are practical for solo operators to use. Video camcorders for amateur use have been tiny for some while now but the GoPro and similar products has taken this miniaturisation to a new level and at a very economic cost, including its submarine housing.
If you stay shallower than, say, 12 metres, a video camera with its ability to colour balance its electronic signal automatically, will give a very reasonable colour to its images. Once you go deeper you will need to equip yourself with some powerful lights that must be capable of emitting a diffuse and even beam.
However big or small your camera is the rules of shooting video are the same underwater as they are on terra firma. You should try to hold the camera still with perfect buoyancy control while your subject moves within the frame. You will need to build up shots so that you have enough material to assist you with the architecture of your final production. You will need the wide establishing shot as well as the mid and close-up shots of the action. You don’t have to shoot them in that order, of course. A finished programme is a series of events joined together into a sequence to represent something that might not have ever happened!
The same rules also apply to video-making as to still photography underwater. Get in close. It‘s not so necessary to get everything into one camera frame. You’ll have the advantage over a still camera of being able to construct a sequence from several shots later.
Remember that although you might find one particular animal fascinating and dwell on it for a long time with your camera, your audience might get quickly bored watching the action later. A good guide is to look at any old-fashioned television commercials that had high production values. There may well be a dozen or so different shots used in a sequence but the whole thing only lasts an attention-grabbing 30 seconds.
When you construct your programme from the footage you recorded, bear in mind there are very few audiences that do not have trouble with their eyes rolling after watching an amateur underwater film that lasts for more than 20 minutes. A good 20 minute programme might have more than 250 individually recorded moments in it.
The other thing to remember if you are diving in a group, is that if you find something interesting you should not dwell on it so long that other divers do not get a chance to get their pictures too.
At £159 in Mike's, the Intova Sport HD II is a very economic way to get into underwater video making and it’s not so big as to be intrusive. If you want the highest quality result the top-of-the-range GoPro Hero 4 Black even shoots 4k video. Not only that but you can stick any of these little cameras on the end of a pole accessory that will enable you to get the big close-ups without having to put your head near something that might be a less attractive proposition. There are lots of other useful and practical accessories available too.
Happy Diving - John Bantin