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:
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.
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.
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.
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.