Underwater video gear and setup

Snake River Prototyping The Tray
GoPro Hero4 + Snake River Prototyping Tray + Red filter

My interest in video actually started under water. When I was travelling to Borneo a couple of years ago, I decided to buy a GoPro Hero4 to film my dives at Sipadan Island. At that time I was just using the GoPro, an underwater handle and a red filter that wasn’t nearly strong enough (so. much. blue). Today, I am actually, still using my loyal Hero 4, but with a couple of upgrades. Keep reading for a list of the underwater video equipment and settings that I use:

The camera

As mentioned, I still use my GoPro Hero4. I actually have two of them nowadays – I wanted another one for scuba diving with bull sharks in Fiji, so I could use one for video and one for photos. Let’s ignore the fact that the SD card in one of them didn’t work at the time (oopsie, it happens to all of us). There are plenty of different settings and depending on the kind of video you shoot, and depending on how much post-editing you want to do, you can adjust it to your preferences. I tend to shoot it in 2.7k with 60fps, but I export all my videos in 1080p 30fps. I like shooting in a higher resolution because that gives me the flexibility to crop and stabilise without loosing too much quality. I also like having the ability to slow it down, because fish, and other animals, don’t tend to stay in frame as long as you want them to.

If you want a camera for using in the water only, I would recommend checking out Paralenz, which is the first camera actually made specifically for diving. It has a built in color corrector that corrects the color depending on your depth (how cool is that?). This one is definitely on my wish list, but I’m still happy with my GoPros.

The handle

For years, I have just used a floating hand grip. It works perfectly, but does take some practise to get smooth footage. I have noticed that it helps holding it with both hands. Frame your shot, and then try to stay as still as possibile. If you are diving, don’t quick your fins – just use your breathing if you need to adjust your position up or down. If you want to do a panning shot – kick your fins, and then just glide forward slowly while getting your shot.

I recently upgraded to a tray for my GoPro, which offers a two hand grip and a triangular shape which helps you get close to your subject, without having your hands right in there. It’s made by Snake River Prototyping, and you can attach arms for torches as well.

Something I have not had to learn the hard way is – always, always – attach the camera to yourself. A wrist strap works perfectly, but make sure it stays on securely. It is important to be able to drop the camera if you need to use your hand. Same goes if you drop it by accident.

The accessories

I only have two accessories for my GoPro setup – a torch and a red filter. I don’t use the torch that often, but it I like having it with me. If I had to pick one accessory, it would definitely be the red filter. Different filters are designed for different depths. If you are scuba diving, you need a stronger one, and if you are snorkelling you can use a weaker one. If you don’t use the correct filter for your depth, your footage will either come out too red (filter is too strong) or too blue (filter is too weak). If I want to film the ascent of my dive and get a reveal shot of the dive boat or the shore, I usually take the filter off 3-5m from the surface to avoid getting red footage. Most filters come with a little string that you can attach to your handle, so you don’t lose it.

The result

Here is some footage from The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, shot with this exact setup and with some minor color correction done in post.

5 tips for creating travel videos with your phone

Today’s phones are more than capable of producing great video, so if you don’t want to spend your money on a camera, it’s a great option! Good videos are not made by expensive equipment, but by the person shooting them. If you are into making videos, and want to use your phone, here are a few of my tips:

1. Hold it correctly

If you intend to post your videos on something other than instagram stories and snapchat, you want to shoot it horizontally (in landscape). You also want to keep it as steady as you can, which is easier if you are holding it with both hands.

2. Check the available settings

Many new phones let you change the resolution, frame rate and look and feel of the video. Some of them even do slow motion! Keep this in mind when you are out filming to get the best setting for your shot. If you are shooting waves rolling in on the beach, and want to be able to slow that down, use the 60fps setting if your phone has it. If you are shooting action adventures, you might want to use the super slow motion to get that really cool effect. On many phones you can also play around with focus and exposure – be sure to have a play with these before so you know how they work.

3. Frame the shot

Before you press record, frame your shot. Think about the composition of your shot and if you are not already read up on the rule of thirds, I suggest you do some research on it. When you have the shot you want, then press record. This will save you from a lot of time going through shaky footage of you getting in to the right position.

4. Hold the shot

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with impressions when you are out filming, and you probably want to get all these amazing impressions in your videos. This can cause you to just get a quick shot of everything, but when you get home to edit your videos, you notice that most of them are unusable because they are too short. When you know which shot you want, frame it, hold it, and count to 5. Even if it is just a still video of a landscape, it is important that you get enough video to allow for editing.

5. Get an accessory

There are many great accessories to help make your videos better. I would go for a gimbal, or stabiliser, to help keep your videos nice and smooth. Most models also work as a selfie stick, so it’s easier for you to be in your videos.