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Member Since 25 May 2005
Offline Last Active Oct 25 2015 02:22 AM

Topics I've Started

Snoot for under $5

13 June 2015 - 12:41 AM

Given that my last topic here was about the Shogun housing that cost me an arm and a leg, I thought I'd go to the other end of the spectrum and describe the cheapest piece of underwater video equipment that I ever bought.


Last weekend, I was wandering around a huge hardware store here in Bangkok when I had an idea for a snoot.

I found two bits of "reducing diameter" water pipe that fit snugly together and, by some miracle of hardware sizing, fits perfectly on the iTorch Pro 7.  Because the wider end is slightly tapered, it slides on tight enough to wedge on without any tape, velcro, clamps or locks.  It needs to be wiggled slightly to get it off.   It's like someone designed these plumbing pieces to be made into a snoot!
Of course it helps that the iTorch Pro 7 is exactly a particular dimension and has its one switch far enough back that the snoot does not interfere with it.
I just glued the 2 bits of pipe together and painted it black with a can of matt spray paint.
It fits into the same pocket on my BP/W belt as the one that I use to carry my light filters.
From about 15cm from the mouth of the snoot, it makes a oblong of light about 6cm across with quite defined edges.
Total cost: about $5 for two, plus the spray paint.
The iTorch Light and the water pipe parts:
Attached File  Snoot Parts.jpg   89.65KB   18 downloads
The finished Snoot painted black:
Attached File  Finished Snoot.jpg   110.99KB   17 downloads
The Snoot mounted on the light:
Attached File  Mounted Snoot.jpg   110.98KB   17 downloads

World Ocean Day

08 June 2015 - 05:38 PM

On world ocean day, please watch my video on why marine parks make economic sense:


Please retweet or share on Facebook.

Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia

31 May 2015 - 05:29 PM

I just posted a five-minute short video from a recent dive trip to Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia onto my website.





I was only in Raja Ampat for 3 days to shoot a promo video for a dive resort (see below).  But, even in that short time, I came across an amazing amount of marine life.  Rather than squeeze in lots of quick snippets of the myriad of creatures, for this short video, I just edited down to a few of the more impressive or colourful fish.


Raja Ampat really is a diver's paradise!


(And, if you want to dive the northern area from a very comfortable resort, I can recommend the Raja Ampat Dive Lodge which is, not only in the midst of the sites, but also has an amazing dive under its own jetty)





Shot with a GH4 in a Nauticam housing.


Nauticam Shogun Housing is here

06 May 2015 - 02:18 AM

It took a while for Nauticam to sort out a few issues but finally I received my Nauticam Shogun housing this week. I'm not going to write a full review.  I'll leave that to those better qualified.  But here are some photos and first impressions.  After a few days diving in Lembeh at the end of this month, I will give an update on how it performs in action.  


Of course, the Shogun monitor is great for seeing what you are shooting and being able to record ProRes HQ 422 10 bit video puts it into the realm of much more expensive systems.


Attached File  Shogun Housing.JPG   109.88KB   33 downloads


Firstly, the NA-Shogun is big.  Needs to be big to allow room for the Shogun, a big Sony battery and some cooling fans.  This system is not for the casual videographer.  However, with bigness comes stability.  The addition of this housing, line astern from the camera housing, will definitely help overcome some of the "pitch" stability issues inherent in the "still" camera format when shooting handheld video.  It also adds a lot more mass (but not in-water weight) - great for stability.


Secondly, it is well-engineered.  All the housing functions are available, except the menu - but then you should not need to play with the Shogun menu underwater. The function buttons give you control over focus assist, histograms, etc.  The "overhead" mount bar give a lot of flexibility for positioning. The HDMI cable seems to be solid - if you are careful with aligning the plugs.  It includes a full leak detection and vacuum system.  The base plate provides many options for mounting legs for macro.  Note: the housing does not actually connect to the base plate.  The overhead arm holds the monitor housing.  The base plate stops the whole rig from falling over with the weight of the Shogun housing.  It's also for connecting legs.  (Once I have worked out my preferred viewing angle, I might add a rubber-stopper to the base plate to give the bottom of the Shogun housing something to rest on - not necessary but might stop any wobble through the arm.)


Attached File  IMG_0194.JPG   111.43KB   28 downloads


Thirdly, it took me a while to get it set up the first time. But that's probably my incompetence - it's been a while since I played with Meccano.  Now that I know how to do it, I can get it done in about 20 minutes.  But, of course, you only need to set it up once at the beginning of a dive trip - you can do everything you need to do inside the camera housing and the Shogun housing with them all connected together.


Fourthly, unassembled, the GH4 in its housing / port and the Shogun in its housing, two video lights and their arms and some accessories all fit into a large carry-on size photo backpack.  No need to check it in.  If my checked luggage is delayed, I can still go diving and shoot, at least for a couple of hours.


Attached File  IMG_0209.JPG   92.89KB   30 downloads


The Shogun battery (Sony NP-970) lasts about 90 minutes of run time - maybe longer. There's space inside the housing to look at putting in an extended battery system for longer.   A 1Tb SSD holds 2 hours and 20 minutes of ProRes HQ 422 10 bit video.


This coming weekend I will test it in a pool (maybe my fish pond) and get the buoyancy and balance right.  I think that it needs a 1kg dive weight strapped under the rear of the rig - the Shogun housing is positively buoyant but the GH4 housing is slightly negative - together they still float.  A dive weight and a cable-tie should fix it.


Then it's off to Lembeh to see if it is worth the investment.  I'll keep you posted.





Attached File  IMG_0193.JPG   109.39KB   28 downloads

Tracking focus with a GH4 in the NA-GH4

04 April 2015 - 06:19 PM

Caveat: Maybe you all know about this technique and find this thread a bit "ho hum".  In which case, please ignore.  But, for me, it was an exciting breakthrough that improved my success rate shooting moving subjects.




Panasonic GH4 in a Nauticam NA-GH4 housing with either the 7-14mm, 12-35mm (dome) or the PZ 14-42mm (flat port) shooting video of octopus, cuttlefish and squid in Lembeh.  I wanted to be able to shoot these critters "up close" and "on the move" but still keep them in sharp focus.




I don't trust any auto-focus tracking system and have not had reliable success using it with the GH4 underwater, especially in murky conditions.  I prefer to use AFL/AEL to lock in focus and exposure for the whole clip.  With the camera set to AFS and a small centre focus point, I lock in the focus on the eye of the critter at the start of the clip.  But, then the critter starts to move.  How do I ensure that the critter's eye stays firmly in the narrow depth of field?  Obviously I need to move the camera with the subject, keeping the distance between the critter's eye and the lens at the same distance.  But that's quite difficult, especially checking the focus with the small monitor on the back of the GH4.


Solution 1 (attach a better monitor):


Use a large monitor that has built-in focus peaking like the Shogun.  But, Nauticam have not yet released the Shogun housing.  And I need to get the footage now.


Solution 2 (flip on the GH4's focus peaking): 


Unfortunately, the GH4's focus peaking only works when the camera is set to manual focus (Panasonic: could this be fixed in a firmware update, please).  The lens / port combinations that I'm using don't have manual focus.


But (and here is my big breakthrough), the NA-GH4 housing has a MF-AFC-AFS switch in a convenient location.  


Here's what worked: Before diving, turn on focus peaking in the camera's menu and save it to your favourite UW custom setting.  Underwater, set the MF-AFC-AFS switch to AFS and use the rear lever to set AFL to get a sharp lock on the subject's eye.  Flip the MF-AFC-AFS switch to MF.  The lens stays at the same focus distance as locked in.  But now the subject is also covered with focus peaking dots.  As the subject moves, move the camera with the subject, ensuring that the focus peaking dots continue to flicker all around the subject's eyes.  


If it's not moving too fast (e.g. an octopus walking), I was able to keep the subject firmly in the plane of focus (9 times out of 10)...