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Video and a Stable Platform - Gyros or DPVs?

Gyro Stabilizer DPV

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#1 r4e

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 11:22 AM

I am looking for ways to improve my u/w video footage. I have already invested in a 200w HMI, which improves a lot of things IF the water is clear. For murky waters I'll be trying something else (watch this space).

My current video setup is Sony MC50 and Aquatica with no light arms. What I like about this setup is that it is ergonomic and convenient size, i.e. not bulky. Especially in caves and penetrating wrecks, I prefer not to have lamps fixed on long arms. But, then I need to hold the camera in one hand and my lamp(s) in the other. Consequently, the light weight camera and housing will not provide a stable platform, especially when shooting footage and swimming simultaneously. I should point out that some of the filming has and will be done solo.

Eventhough the frog kick is best suited for silty environments, I can see in the video the speed variation of the kick and the glide. So for close quarters, I change to modified frog or modified shuffle kick.

Here is a sample video where I personally like the color balance and much of the lightning. But, I am bothered by the instability. As you can see, a tripod would not have been an option here.



I noticed there was some discussion about gyro stabilizers five years ago. Does anyone have actual u/w experiences of these? Since I will not be filming any sealife, a low-level noise would be acceptable. As long as the noise level is bearable to my team mates. Neither do I mind some moderate DIY stuff for e.g. a customized battery canister. Should I buy two Kenyon KS-8s? Or would this be a waste of money? I wonder why they need an inverter.

Or would I be better of by purchasing a DPV, attaching the camera to the DPV and getting some cave DPV training? (I am already full cave diver). The training and certifications required would add one year to my timescale.

Or should I just buy a bigger, more bulky (and perhaps also better) camera with a larger housing? Obviously the weight and inertia would bring stability.

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#2 Davide DB

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 01:41 AM

Modified frog or modified shuffle kick is the way to go for filming while swimming.
Anyway you have to exercise you video skills a lot to obtain a steady hand. Of course a nearly perfect setup is a good starting point Posted Image

A DPV is a better choice for filming cave and wreck diving. Despite of the added difficulty of using a scooter in a cave environment (maybe a proper scooter cave training is a must) it adds a lot of stability.

The key point is getting a perfect trim and buoyancy of the entire setup. The best option is trying to have both camera setup and scooter+mount separately neutrally buoyant . If for some reason you have to remove the camera from the scooter mount you still have a working/manageable scooter. Sometimes it's hard to achieve and mainly depends on the camera setup.

A suggestion for tech dives: evaluate carefully the buoyancy system. I was so stupid to use Stix floats in a 80m+ dive. On the box neither on their web site they specify the max depth and it was my fault to not investigate. I used them a lot of times above 45m but below they became like chewing gum and it's a PITA finding yourself at depth with a heavy scooter and camera and a lot of deco on your back... Once crushed they need some hour to return to the original shape.

Edited by Davide DB, 20 September 2012 - 01:41 AM.

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#3 cardash

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Posted 20 September 2012 - 05:58 AM

This is interesting stuff.

Your clip gets in my opinion 8/10 in being steady Posted Image I guess for most of the viewers it is more than enough, but it can always be better Posted Image

Will the scooter help You a lot? I m not sure. I bought a scooter just for that purpose Posted Image

And as with everything, some things are easier some not.

While on a scooter and going, the video is nice and stable, but it looks bad when you start and stop, so you can film stop, the resume etc. Since the housing with arms is bulky and the drag is big so the mount is not that 100% stable.

Plus, it is not that easy to move that stuff and I think keeping firm and steady is easier, but slowly moving, panning etc no.

So, good trim of the housng will do more than a scooter, a good trim of a scooter and of a housing will do even more Posted Image

Here are some old clips (shot 2y ago with sony hc5):

[vimeo]13507368[/vimeo]
[vimeo]15894443[/vimeo]

As I moved to dslr, my next idea is to use a monopod Posted Image Not a tripod, as it is to hard to take and deploy every time.

Cheers,
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#4 r4e

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 11:31 PM

A DPV is a better choice for filming cave and wreck diving. Despite of the added difficulty of using a scooter in a cave environment (maybe a proper scooter cave training is a must) it adds a lot of stability.

Thanks Davide, for your advice. I liked your video of Henry Desprez. Did you shoot this with a camera attached to the scooter? Since you were using a wide angle lense, did you have to fix the camera at the front of the DPV? How does this affect driveability? Is there a tendency to tilt when stopping/starting?

[vimeo]47105423[/vimeo]

Edited by r4e, 23 September 2012 - 12:11 AM.

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#5 r4e

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 12:06 AM

Piotr, I have been watching many of your videos and appreciate your advice.

This is interesting stuff. Your clip gets in my opinion 8/10 in being steady Posted Image

Thanks for your kind comments. But, yes I want to improve on it (a lot).

Will the scooter help You a lot? I m not sure. I bought a scooter just for that purpose Posted Image
While on a scooter and going, the video is nice and stable, but it looks bad when you start and stop, so you can film stop, the resume etc. Since the housing with arms is bulky and the drag is big so the mount is not that 100% stable.

Plus, it is not that easy to move that stuff and I think keeping firm and steady is easier, but slowly moving, panning etc no.

It is interesting that you point out that your experience is not 100% positive eventhough you bought a scooter for stabilizing purposes. I have seen a number of fine cave/mine videos where the scooter travel has created a nice flow to things. What is the biggest problem shooting video on top of a scooter? Is it the drag which might pull the nose up? Do you need to compensate for this? Or the shake or roll?

I would also assume that the maneuvaribility of the camera angle suffers if the video camera is fixed to one position on top the DPV.

Piotr, it is amazing how super smooth and steady you have got your video on Tuna Hastberg (below). There is a big improvement compared to the videos you posted above. What is your secret here? Do you still have the camera attached to a DPV? Or do you use your monopod for stability also whilst swimming?

[vimeo]35087258[/vimeo]

Edited by r4e, 23 September 2012 - 12:12 AM.

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#6 Davide DB

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:36 PM

Thanks Davide, for your advice. I liked your video of Henry Desprez. Did you shoot this with a camera attached to the scooter? Since you were using a wide angle lense, did you have to fix the camera at the front of the DPV? How does this affect driveability? Is there a tendency to tilt when stopping/starting?


Thanks r4e, Yes I had the housing on top of a Suex ADV14. For the fisheye position it is sufficient to move the scooter mount forward until you do not see anymore the nose from the display. If the setup is neutrally buoyant it doesn't affect driveabilty too much. I mounted the plate aligned with the scooter handle so I can film while scootering. I haven't tilt problem.

I use the tiny "yellow diving" mount which is perfect for a small m43 system (maybe too small for larger systems)

WP_000243.jpg

Edited by Davide DB, 23 September 2012 - 02:38 PM.

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#7 cardash

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 11:56 AM

It is interesting that you point out that your experience is not 100% positive eventhough you bought a scooter for stabilizing purposes. I have seen a number of fine cave/mine videos where the scooter travel has created a nice flow to things. What is the biggest problem shooting video on top of a scooter? Is it the drag which might pull the nose up? Do you need to compensate for this? Or the shake or roll?


Don`t get me wrong. What I mean is, that while going with the scooter video is nice, smooth, and looks great.
But when You stop and continue to shoot it is not that much easier. What You earn with stability You loose with the size of that big setup.

So I think of a scooter as of an underwater dolly Posted Image

I think that every scooter is powerful enough to cope with the drag of the camera without a problem.

I would also assume that the maneuvaribility of the camera angle suffers if the video camera is fixed to one position on top the DPV.


Not that much, You will get used to it very fast.

Do you still have the camera attached to a DPV? Or do you use your monopod for stability also whilst swimming?


I don`t use the monopod, yet. I`m not sure I will, I have to test it, just an idea so far.

I use the tiny "yellow diving" mount which is perfect for a small m43 system (maybe too small for larger systems)


Good product from Poland! Posted Image
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#8 HDVdiver

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 04:32 PM

I think there is no substitute for holding a video camera with two hands to maximize stability and flexibility of composition...and much practice and discipline when it comes to swimming/panning/bouyancy while shooting. Under some circumstances a scooter is useful (I do have a set-up which I use) but too much scooter material starts to look monotonous. And then there is the problem when the scooter stops.

Almost paradoxically the need for steady hands increases with the FOV of a lens...I have found that the most difficult lens to use UW for my GH2 video is the 7-14mm superwide. The slightest up/down movement looks terrible on the screen. If you are unable to mount the single light in a way to get good balance I would suggest that another diver/model holds the light while you concentrate 100% on holding the camera steady and on composition.Posted Image

Edited by HDVdiver, 26 September 2012 - 04:33 PM.

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#9 cardash

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 01:08 AM

If you are unable to mount the single light in a way to get good balance I would suggest that another diver/model holds the light while you concentrate 100% on holding the camera steady and on composition.


100% true. You "fool" the eyes a bit with that.
That is why he bought the HMI light Posted Image

BTW, how much was it Richard? Did You get a new one or second hand? Its not that easy to find salvo HMI... in europe Posted Image

Edited by cardash, 27 September 2012 - 01:08 AM.

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#10 r4e

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 02:58 AM

So I think of a scooter as of an underwater dolly Posted Image
...I think that every scooter is powerful enough to cope with the drag of the camera without a problem.
...You will get used to it very fast.

Thanks Piotr for your advice. I like your comparison of a DPV being like a dolly.

In the next year or so, I'll consider a proper DPV course because they don't allow use of DPVs at Ojamo mine without proper certs. I'll need to look into the DPV video mounts as well. I might purchase several different ones just to get the feel which works best. My guess is that the main points are: sturdiness, low profile, ability to rotate camera and a quick release.

It seems that DPV shooting will be one shooting style amongst others. Of course using a DPV might also affect my range, especially if I any day upgrade to a bulkier camera.

Edited by r4e, 27 September 2012 - 03:01 AM.

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#11 r4e

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 03:27 AM

I think there is no substitute for holding a video camera with two hands to maximize stability and flexibility of composition...and much practice and discipline when it comes to swimming/panning/bouyancy while shooting...
Almost paradoxically the need for steady hands increases with the FOV of a lens...I have found that the most difficult lens to use UW for my GH2 video is the 7-14mm superwide. The slightest up/down movement looks terrible on the screen.

I tend to agree with this.

If you are unable to mount the single light in a way to get good balance I would suggest that another diver/model holds the light while you concentrate 100% on holding the camera steady and on composition.Posted Image

My dilemna here is that I like to use my light to paint the scene. This is a personal style I am still developing, but, getting gradually better in this. For some reason I dislike the more traditional lighting created by two fixed video lamps giving more or less car headlight appearance. I would prefer the lighting to appear "natural" or then being created by the diving activity itself, but enhanced, e.g. diver held lamps.

The biggest benefit of painting the scene with a manually held lamp is the ability to constantly adjust the light in a dynamically moving scene. Of course this needs to be done peacefully.

The drawback is that I have only two hands. One for the light and one for the camera. Consequently stability is compromised. I'll have to practise on the iron fist.

Apart from painting with light, I am learning to appreciate the benefits of off-camera lighting. This improves the contrast a lot, gives depth and makes the scenery more three dimensional with lights and shadows. In the Ojamo video above, I turned away my lamp in much of the scenery because to my eye it looked better so.

Edited by r4e, 27 September 2012 - 03:29 AM.

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#12 HDVdiver

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 03:48 AM

LOL...I don't think I've ever tried...nor would I want to...holding the camera with one hand and the light with the other! OK for still photos but very difficult for video...particularly with one light. I'm thinking of the constant movement of shadows in the background relative to the camera due to both being independent. I hate to think of the coordination work load.

Caves in particular lend themselves to very creative lighting...and in many ways it is a more controlled/controlable environment where different lighting ideas could work well. But...shooting with one hand is not for me. :)

On the other hand I quite like the effectof a diver model (in the scene) holding the main light...as long as it's held steadily; not pointed into the lens; and the light has a very wide beam. It's not easy to "train" a model to do it correctly...but if yoiu dive with the same person often it can work effectively.

As far as stability is concerned there's always the option of correcting in the NLE. I use the Mercalli Image Stabilization plugin for Edius. Usually does a very impressive job.

#13 r4e

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 03:59 AM

That is why he bought the HMI light Posted Image
BTW, how much was it Richard? Did You get a new one or second hand? Its not that easy to find salvo HMI... in europe Posted Image

I had been considering to purchase a new HMI light (or lights) for some time. I was a bit concerned about the full price vs delivery time, reliability of the HMI lamp and availability of spare parts. When I had an opportunity to purchase a second hand HMI, it was an easy decision. The cost was less than the total cost of any current lamps giving the same total amount of lumens.

There are only three small problems:
1) Definitely not flyable by any IATA regulations.
2) Somebody warned me about not taking the lamp on a RIB boat ride. Well, half of my dives are from a RIB boat and I prefer to ride at 50 knot speed when the conditions allow... That's why I charge and transport the lamp and LiPo canister inside a cushioned NATO grenade box. Fingers crossed.
3) Seeing the effects of the lamp makes me crave for even more. It would seem that further investments into lighting would have a bigger effect on footage than a new camera would have? Or would it?

But, I still need to get the footage stable enough. Iron fist, two hands, gyro stabilizers, DPV and/or bulkier new (and better) camera?

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#14 r4e

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 04:47 AM

LOL...I don't think I've ever tried...nor would I want to...holding the camera with one hand and the light with the other! OK for still photos but very difficult for video...particularly with one light. I'm thinking of the constant movement of shadows in the background relative to the camera due to both being independent. I hate to think of the coordination work load.

Caves in particular lend themselves to very creative lighting...and in many ways it is a more controlled/controlable environment where different lighting ideas could work well. But...shooting with one hand is not for me. Posted Image

If you think about it, it is not so difficult after all. Holding a dive lamp should already be an almost subconscious activity. So the question is are you able to use your other hand, single-handedly, for follow-through video. Then just combine these and use your video monitor for wysiwyg lighting. It soon becomes as natural as riding a bike. Of course, you have to be able to see the video monitor effortlessly - for some housings this is unachievable.

Below is a cave video I shot in April 2011. I had just finished my Intro to Cave course, but, I did not feel task loaded holding the camera in one and a Green Force Heptastar lamp in the other. In some of the scenes the dynamic lighting is pleasing (atleast to my eyes). I could not have recorded swimming through any of the restrictions with a larger camera with lamps on arms. Any problems with moving shadows? I don't think so, but, I might be wrong. The video does admittedly contain many flaws as well: it is too long, some of the scenes are not so well lit and there are some over exposures.

[vimeo]22488348[/vimeo]

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#15 Davide DB

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 05:12 AM

Below is a cave video I shot in April 2011.flaws as well: it is too long, some of the scenes are not so well lit and there are some over exposures.


Richard, I don't think that "holding the camera with one hand and the light with the other" is the way to go. Of course, in your video having a proper video light would have helped but not too much. It's not a matter of reinventing the wheel here. Of course you are free to experiment as you like but... In a cave or other nearly dark environments you need two powerfull video lights on your camera; one or more video lights on your dive buddies will improve or create nice light painting effects that can capture your audience attention.
I do some cave dives and frankly speaking average cave videos are very boring. Cave divers probably will like them a lot but I think that a movie should have a more universal message/story/appeal.
Great attention on editing and light use can greatly improve the audience experience.
As I wrote on another thread, great examples of what I mean are the two Joe Hesket's secret fo the yucatan episodes and Andrew Pitkin's Phantom Cave videos (short version). The gold rule of 3 minute max length will always apply. in rare occasion or if you are Howard Hall, five minutes.

From a video point of view, no rocket science there: steady shots, good composition and a bunch of lights (and money Posted Image )

Edited by Davide DB, 27 September 2012 - 05:13 AM.

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#16 r4e

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Posted 27 September 2012 - 05:27 AM

As far as stability is concerned there's always the option of correcting in the NLE. I use the Mercalli Image Stabilization plugin for Edius. Usually does a very impressive job.

Is this applicable to "shake" only or also to larger "wobbling" movements?
Will you effectively also recrop the video and lose some sharpness due to resampling?

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#17 HDVdiver

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 10:51 AM

Is this applicable to "shake" only or also to larger "wobbling" movements?
Will you effectively also recrop the video and lose some sharpness due to resampling?


Yes to all...but if shooting HBR/All-I (i.e. hacked GH2) video the sharpness loss is negligable.

I find it sometimes useful to improve sub-standard material, but I always try to maximize stability during shooting. :)

#18 cardash

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 11:41 AM

3) Seeing the effects of the lamp makes me crave for even more. It would seem that further investments into lighting would have a bigger effect on footage than a new camera would have? Or would it?


I like the way You try to find something interesting and combine all types of skills.
I want to go to Ojamo next year, I will take a ton of light and will contact You so we can make something cool, huh? :D
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#19 r4e

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 10:11 PM

I like the way You try to find something interesting and combine all types of skills.
I want to go to Ojamo next year, I will take a ton of light and will contact You so we can make something cool, huh? Posted Image

Piotr, thanks for your comments. And welcome to Finland.

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