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Hi, my name is Marcell Nikolausz. I’m a hobby underwater videographer originally from Hungary, living now in Germany. There was a recent discussion about the underrepresentation of videography topics at wetpixel. I also missed discussions about the lower budget video solutions. I’m very much interested in the latest and greatest tools the professionals are using, but those equipment are way beyond my budget and it’s true probably most of the readers of wetpixel. So I thought, I initiate a discussion about low-budget videography. Is it possible at all?

I started with underwater videography already during the film era using a Minolta dynax 7000i in an Ikelite housing. That time the acceptable video quality was really expensive, while I could easily afford the same film David Doubilet used (but my photos were still crap in comparison but not because of the “sensor quality”). Especially wide angle video and proper lighting was achievable only for bigger film crews. Today, a cheap action camera has a better quality at a fraction of price what was available 20 years ago for professionals.

I get into videography when I purchased a sony nex-5 and I explored that it has a video record button but I was not really hooked at the beginning. The real change happened when I got a GoPro HERO (entry level version of HERO 4, approx. 130 Euro) and started to play with it and decided to get more into videography.

I watched many videos on youtube and vimeo but most of them were really bad with lots of shaky camera movements causing sea sickness on land. The other major problem I recognised was the bad colours but somehow I expected it. So I wanted to make completely different underwater films. I watched also many BBC documentaries and films from professionals. I especially liked the work of Howard Hall and it was clear that he used tripod a lot.

So my first suggestion is to use some kind of tripod or some other kind of stabilization for your camera. My first solution was a flat rock. I glued a GoPro mount on it and attached my camera. I also tried joby gorillapod but it’s too light for such small cameras. My second solution was a modified aluminium tent-peg. (see picture below).

 

DSC09751_r.thumb.jpg.aa94cad8e4499ea10ef7224a8db5bf65.jpg

Not much later I invested into a second camera. Instead of a top GoPro I bought the much cheaper Yi 4K (around 200 Euro that time). (It fits better to the low-budget videography). The camera choice will be the topic of a next post.

Overall, it was really fun to use these cheap cameras and I created a short film that I entered to the actioncup video competition. It’s a German video competition focusing mainly on small cameras and it has a category for action cameras. My movie won the freshwater category. See the movie below (Sorry but the text is German but I hope you will watch it anyway):

 

Overall the budget of this movie was around 400 Euro. One short footage from this was even used in a bigger TV film (broadcasted in Slovakia)

Next post will be about low-budget but relatively good quality cameras.

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Cameras

When entry level videography is discussed at wetpixel the latest GoPro is usually recommended as the minimum. However, there are other cameras to consider. I used the following cameras so far:

  • ·       GoPro HERO

  • ·       Yi 4K

  • ·       Yi 4K+

  • ·       Actionpro X9

  • ·       Hawkeye Firefly 8SE, 90 degree version

  • ·       GoPro HERO 6 Black (from a friend)

  • ·       DJI Osmo Action (from a friend)

My first action camera was a GoPro HERO (an entry level version of HERO 4, approx. 130 Euro around the announcement). It’s not sold anymore but I wouldn’t recommend it. The maximum resolution is full HD, but in general you may choose an older model or the basic version (white) of actual model (until HERO 7).

My second camera was a Yi 4K produced by a sister company of Xiaomi. Unfortunately they stopped production of action cameras but you can find them occasionally. The flagship camera of Yi was Yi 4K+. It can even shoot at 4K 60fps. Both Yi 4K and 4K+ uses the same sensor (Sony IMX377) but 4K+ has a better processor and I like the files from it better. However, it also depletes the batteries faster. I can film with my 4K for more than an hour while my 4K+ stopes recording after 40-50 minutes.

I won my Actionpro X9, it sells currently below 200 Euro. It’s more or less similar to the Yi 4K in specifications; it uses the same Sony IMX377. The pictures are a bit greener from it but the quality is similar due to the same sensor. A test film I took at Marsa Alam you can find here:

I purchased the Hawkeye Firefly 8SE, 90 degree version to have a different view for my videos. It has a not that wide angle 90 degree view angle without much distortion. I have a love and hate relationship with this camera. The close focus capability of this camera is not that good so you need a distance from your subject to record them sharp, which is really bad underwater. It also uses an older noisier sensor, the Sony IMX117. So my first footages were noisy and soft. I was about to sell it when I decided to try to refocus it. Now, I can use for close-up and macro filming, the quality improver a lot due to the less water between my subject and the lens but it will be the topic of another post.

I used a bit a friend’s GoPro 6 Black and the quality of the footages were really nice but not better than the ones from my Yi 4K+. The stabilization and white balance of the latest GoPros improved a lot but I have not much experience to comment on it.

I also used a DJI Osmo Action briefly. I was really happy with the results. Now it sells around 200 Euro, so if I would need a new camera it would be on the top of the list. I also considered SJCAM, Xiaomi Mijia Mini 4k. I think the minimum today is 4K 30FPS (60FPS preferred) and a reliable image sensor (Sony IMX377 or better)

Do you have any other recommended camera around 200 Euro/USD?

 

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Colours, filters, external light sources

Besides producing stable footages it’s also important to have nice vibrant colours and it’s a bit more complicated. The cheapest solution is to stay shallow and get close to your subject. In many cases I leave my cameras on a spot I expect fish traffic in the relatively shallow water. Many cases I just wear a chest wader mainly used for angling and I place the cameras with the help of a “reacher grabber tool” mainly used by old people. It’s very useful in cold water.

It’s also important to camouflage your camera somehow. I observed filming parallel with a grey GoPro and the Yi4K in a white housing that the fish avoided the white object.

So I painted all of my plastic camera housings (I stole some nail paint from my daughter). Black or dark green works well. The only problem is that sometimes it’s also difficult to find them.

I tried only cheap filters and I was not that happy with the results. It cuts lots of lights so the shots are noisier and the colours are way off in the shallow. Good quality filters are expensive and the topic of this thread is low-budget videography. I would rather spend my money on a cheap light instead of an expensive filter. But maybe you have a different opinion.

My first underwater video light was a Evolva Future Technology D02 (40-50 Euro, 900 Lumen). You can skip this level. It doesn’t bring much, maybe a bit of kiss of lights on the fish but it’s way to weak.

My second light was Weefine Smart Focus 6000. I actually spent the voucher from my actioncup first prize on it. I think is a really good video light for the money (you can buy it between 540 and 600 euro. It has 6000 lumen, 90 degree (underwater), and colour temperature of 5000 Kelvin, cri (colour rendering index) = ra80. Light output is adjustable; you can add an optical condenser, so it’s perfect also for macro and close-up videography. But it’s not cheap.

There are cheaper lights from China and I saw many divers use them, at least in Germany. There are many versions of these sub 100 Euro video lights and honestly, they’re not that bad. I also bought one. So now I have 3 different lights. It’s absolutely not recommended. Actually for my videography, the best would be a second Weefine, and in general the best way is to use two identical lights.

Back to these cheap video lights. The light output is really good, not the claimed over 10K lumen but surely above 5-6K. The only thing is that the colour temperature is much colder (and probably the CRI is low). However, if you want to do wide angle videography, maybe it’s not a bad choice to use two of these cheap but powerful lights (the video light on the left).

DSC09759_r.thumb.jpg.fc77c3d0dad4685aaa3b02658c88eab0.jpg

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Split level videography (half over, half underwater)

This was a sub-project for me in 2019. I wanted some interesting, unusual footage in my competition video, so I decided to include some split level shootings. It is extra challenging for videography especially at low budget. It requires a dry dome port attached to the underwater housing. I bought a Shoot dome port (around 50 Euro). The selection of dome ports for GoPro was much wider but I found that the quality of these ports is quite similar. They’re acrylic ports without coatings so the reflection is a big issue. Actually I had to cover the inner part of dome (flat part around the camera lens) with a self-adhesive black tissue to reduce the reflection. Still, filming is only possible with the sun behind (and reflection of the lens itself is still an issue). Another issue is the poor dynamic range of the small sensors of the action cameras. The underwater part was always underexposed in real situations. Maybe it works in a pool but rarely in a lake or a river (maybe in very shallow water with lightish ground).

I tried my video lamps to light the underwater part but it has negligible effect. Even for photography you need very powerful strobes and better to do it late afternoon.

Finally I used two sheets of linear polarization filters. Depending on the angle relative to each other they let various amounts of lights through. I cut then small rectangular pieces of the double layer covering the upper part of the flat surface of the housing in front of the action camera lens. In this way I can darken the upper part compensating to the light difference above and under water.

Examples for the results you can find here:

 

 

Meanwhile a bought a gradual ND filter set (Cokin, approx. 10 Euro) and cut rectangular pieces out of it (it’s not glass but optical resin, so you can use a fine saw to cut it) that covers the flat part of the underwater housing in front of the camera lens. It’s a bit hit and miss to find the proper one (The set includes ND2, ND4, ND8 but only the last two make sense). Such videography requires a sturdy tripod and proper levelling should be checked. I usually have a live view on my phone. Water droplets cause also problems.

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Posted (edited)

Macro videography

 

 

Is it possible with action cameras? There are many macro lenses for action cameras. The price is currently ranging between 10 to 40 euros but they are just single element close-up (max +10 dp) lenses and I expect that they introduce chromatic aberrations. In general, adding close-up lens works effectively with telephoto lenses and weakly with wide angle lenses. On the other hand, extension tubes are very effective with wide angle lenses.

The solution is simple; the fixed lens of the action camera should be unscrewed a bit mimicking the effect of an added extension tube. It requires a slight disassemble of the camera and removing some glue fixing the lens in position. First unscrewing may require some tools e.g. a plier (and it means losing the warranty, so do it first with an older, cheaper camera).

I modified first my Hawkeye Firefly camera, which has anyway relatively bad close focusing. Re-focusing made a miracle and it gave a unique look of the footages from this camera. These footages are usually sharper because you have to be closer to the subject, so the layer of blue filter (the water) is much thinner. You can find some examples in this video. All the close-up shootings in this short movie are with this modified camera.

 

 

Later, I also refocused my Yi 4K and it’s even better for macro but the lens should be really close to the subject. I haven’t tried yet underwater but the first results are very promising. You can also find many videos on youtube also for GoPros. An example is here.

 

 

The effect is a bit similar to the one you can achieve with a very expensive relay lens on bigger cameras.

 

https://www.nauticam.com/blogs/news/emwl-explained

Edited by gobiodon
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Great stuff, thanks.  I am using a bit higher grade camera, but some of your ideas and thoughts are still very helpful.  I am interested to follow this discussion and see where it will lead.

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Posted (edited)

Good topic, thanks for sharing.

As for myself, I first started on a cheap compact (Lumix TZ10), but quicly switched to a GoPro4Silver (HD instead of 720p, really nice) in 2015, as I liked the image quality and had, after having done both on the compact, found out that I was not really interested in shooting stills.

I've been using GoPros ever since, starting with the GP4 silver, which was a really nice camera - if you do take the time to shoot in a flat profile and edit in post.
I first had a nice tray setup (homemade, then a SRP tray https://www.diveactiongear.com/product/187/the-tray-by-srp-for-gopro-hero4hero3hero3action-cam ), but when I actually started working in diving, I ditched the tray and simply had the GoPro on a coil retractor in a BCD pocket, and going for fully hand-held: Turns out you can get quite stable shots, even on the non-stabilized 4, just holding the camera with both hands.
I'd used a UR Pro filter on the Panasonic compact, and went for that on the GoPro, after watching "side-by-side"videos comparing different filter options, as I found it offered maybe less vivid, but also less "day-glo" like tones and more uniform results

44502043_189903481904426_4364710164658388992_o.thumb.jpg.ce84bf8279794c9ca8f4f3ef1bdbe92a.jpg
Our faithful GP4S cams with the UR Pro CY filter.

While I wasn't teaching that much,  I was still guiding most of the time so not that many opportunities to shoot - but with such a small camera always tucked in the BC when guiding, I sometimes had option of grabbing a few seconds here and there when it was possible do so so ( 10 to 20 seconds clips max, which works fine for editing anyway, when an experienced guest was taking time to shoot a picture, for instance) or documenting something unusual.
And I also still could do a few personal fun-dives every once in a while where I could shoot whenever I wanted, so all in all this kind of action cam rig worked quite well for the short, storyless, video logbook type clips we're interested in.
My wife was doing the same, and we collected some nice footage, advantages of being in the water everyday.

Switching from the GP4S first to the GP6Black, then to the GP7Black in 2019 was a massive relief because the cam was now waterproof, which made it way more compatible with the type of heavy-duty usage it was getting, ie carried around in a BC pocket on-up to 4 dives per day liveaboard...

Quality wise, I much prefered the old "medium" FOV that the GP4S had over the 6 and 7's "linear" FOV which had higher side distortion, and find the image quality / dynamic range had also dropped a little on the 6/7 (probably due to stabilisation?) but the 7 is still a very capable camera, offering an notable improvement in colour acquisition.

I don't use lights, for practical reasons (bulk), and also out of personnal aesthetic preference.
I'm well aware that this is far from a common opinion, video/photo being all about capturing light and all that, but outside of macro video, I actually prefer less vivid colours and/or a colour cast, but a more even spectrum, over the usual results given by a set of lights blasting away in the foreground - and ambient light is also more discreet...
This is of course linked to the fact that I was diving in the tropics, where it is possible to get workeable results down to 20-25 meters on a good day, and where most of the "good stuff" is in the shallows anyway - unlike say darker waters or freshwater lakes...

From the GP4S to the GP7S, I kept shooting in ambient light down to 20m, in a flat profile, with a UR-Pro filter (SRP Blurfix adapter), and working on the colours in post (FCPX, DaVinci).

Some clips here, all shot on handheld GoPros 4 to 7, in ambient tropical light in various locations:
 


For macro, I did buy a MacroMate-mini +15 diopter, but never really had a chance to use it. Nailing the focus distance is definitely tricky, and you get blurred edges on the 7's FOV, so I moved away from that, especially when my wife bought an Olympus TG5, which gives interesting results for macro video, despite the terrible battery life when filming. I do have a pair of cheap Archon DV11 supposedly 800 lumen lights for macro/night dive fundiives.

I'd read about the lens hack you mentioned, but didn't try modifying the lens position as I only one one workable cam - but did recently change the lens on the GoPro6, switching to a MAPIR PeauProduction 3.37mm lens lens https://www.peauproductions.com/ which allows you to use the "wide" fov without fisheye distortion, I've played around with it on land in lockdown, good times.

Interesting ideas for the tripod, I was actually planning on experimenting with the 3K Gorilla Pod that I have in the near future, on a tray. I played around in the pool with the lights + TG5, seemed to work ok.
Maybe it needs to be weighted down for stability? I really like keep the tent pole idea, easy to carry around.

I agree it's definitely possible to do nice things with GoPro-like cameras, despite obvious limitations.
It's a shame theses cameras do remain action-cams to this day, with most recent functionnalities cleary aimed at the action-cam market rather than more "traditionalist" uses such as underwater video, but hey, if what sells is clearly people wanting to "be heroes", I get it ( which is where the Paralenz market positioning is quite clever in my opinion, advantages of the action cam setup without the focus on action and POV shooting...).

As an example of great use of the GoPro, I'd like to add this promo video was shot by Alex Lindbloom exclusively on GoPro 5s and 6s (with the exception of the aerial drone shots), rather than his more common GH5.
Lovely angles and creative use of tripod shots, lovely stuff.



Otherwise there are a few really nice clips posted on these GoPro UW video FB group that I'm sure you're familiar with:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2347204708888086
https://web.facebook.com/groups/849303718445927


I reluctantly had to archive the GoPro4S rigs for luggage/mobility reasons last year, and will now just keep the 2 GP7Bs I have and the lens modified GP6B.

I currently have no intention of upgrading these cameras to 8/9/10 as I'm satisfied with what I getting, and also recently bought a compact for video, for more flexibility  (Lumix LX10 in a Nauticam housing see https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/65996-choosing-a-compact-for-underwater-video-only-lx100ii-rx100-vvi-lx10/).

Given the current worldwide situation and the impact on travel and tourism, after some years of moving seasonally around mostly between Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand, we'll be settling down on a remote Japanese island in the near future, which might mean the possibility to dive more for myself ( lots of shore-diving options, and won't be working full-time as an instructor-guide), albeit in slightly colder and darker waters...
If we like it and end up setting up a longer-term base there, this might lead me to invest in something bigger like a second-hand GH5 rig (once the GH6 is out for instance), and might be the end of the action cam adventure for me, but I'll definitely be keeping the "GoPros in the pocket" option as handy backups.

cheers
b

Edited by bghazzal
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6 hours ago, bghazzal said:

Good topic, thanks for sharing.

As for myself, I first started on a cheap compact (Lumix TZ10), but quicly switched to a GoPro4Silver (HD instead of 720p, really nice) in 2015, as I liked the image quality and had, after having done both on the compact, found out that I was not really interested in shooting stills.

I've been using GoPros ever since, starting with the GP4 silver, which was a really nice camera - if you do take the time to shoot in a flat profile and edit in post.
I first had a nice tray setup (homemade, then a SRP tray https://www.diveactiongear.com/product/187/the-tray-by-srp-for-gopro-hero4hero3hero3action-cam ), but when I actually started working in diving, I ditched the tray and simply had the GoPro on a coil retractor in a BCD pocket, and going for fully hand-held: Turns out you can get quite stable shots, even on the non-stabilized 4, just holding the camera with both hands.
I'd used a UR Pro filter on the Panasonic compact, and went for that on the GoPro, after watching "side-by-side"videos comparing different filter options, as I found it offered maybe less vivid, but also less "day-glo" like tones and more uniform results

44502043_189903481904426_4364710164658388992_o.thumb.jpg.ce84bf8279794c9ca8f4f3ef1bdbe92a.jpg
Our faithful GP4S cams with the UR Pro CY filter.

While I wasn't teaching that much,  I was still guiding most of the time so not that many opportunities to shoot - but with such a small camera always tucked in the BC when guiding, I sometimes had option of grabbing a few seconds here and there when it was possible do so so ( 10 to 20 seconds clips max, which works fine for editing anyway, when an experienced guest was taking time to shoot a picture, for instance) or documenting something unusual.
And I also still could do a few personal fun-dives every once in a while where I could shoot whenever I wanted, so all in all this kind of action cam rig worked quite well for the short, storyless, video logbook type clips we're interested in.
My wife was doing the same, and we collected some nice footage, advantages of being in the water everyday.

Switching from the GP4S first to the GP6Black, then to the GP7Black in 2019 was a massive relief because the cam was now waterproof, which made it way more compatible with the type of heavy-duty usage it was getting, ie carried around in a BC pocket on-up to 4 dives per day liveaboard...

Quality wise, I much prefered the old "medium" FOV that the GP4S had over the 6 and 7's "linear" FOV which had higher side distortion, and find the image quality / dynamic range had also dropped a little on the 6/7 (probably due to stabilisation?) but the 7 is still a very capable camera, offering an notable improvement in colour acquisition.

I don't use lights, for practical reasons (bulk), and also out of personnal aesthetic preference.
I'm well aware that this is far from a common opinion, video/photo being all about capturing light and all that, but outside of macro video, I actually prefer less vivid colours and/or a colour cast, but a more even spectrum, over the usual results given by a set of lights blasting away in the foreground - and ambient light is also more discreet...
This is of course linked to the fact that I was diving in the tropics, where it is possible to get workeable results down to 20-25 meters on a good day, and where most of the "good stuff" is in the shallows anyway - unlike say darker waters or freshwater lakes...

From the GP4S to the GP7S, I kept shooting in ambient light down to 20m, in a flat profile, with a UR-Pro filter (SRP Blurfix adapter), and working on the colours in post (FCPX, DaVinci).

Some clips here, all shot on handheld GoPros 4 to 7, in ambient tropical light in various locations:
 


For macro, I did buy a MacroMate-mini +15 diopter, but never really had a chance to use it. Nailing the focus distance is definitely tricky, and you get blurred edges on the 7's FOV, so I moved away from that, especially when my wife bought an Olympus TG5, which gives interesting results for macro video, despite the terrible battery life when filming. I do have a pair of cheap Archon DV11 supposedly 800 lumen lights for macro/night dive fundiives.

I'd read about the lens hack you mentioned, but didn't try modifying the lens position as I only one one workable cam - but did recently change the lens on the GoPro6, switching to a MAPIR PeauProduction 3.37mm lens lens https://www.peauproductions.com/ which allows you to use the "wide" fov without fisheye distortion, I've played around with it on land in lockdown, good times.

Interesting ideas for the tripod, I was actually planning on experimenting with the 3K Gorilla Pod that I have in the near future, on a tray. I played around in the pool with the lights + TG5, seemed to work ok.
Maybe it needs to be weighted down for stability? I really like keep the tent pole idea, easy to carry around.

I agree it's definitely possible to do nice things with GoPro-like cameras, despite obvious limitations.
It's a shame theses cameras do remain action-cams to this day, with most recent functionnalities cleary aimed at the action-cam market rather than more "traditionalist" uses such as underwater video, but hey, if what sells is clearly people wanting to "be heroes", I get it ( which is where the Paralenz market positioning is quite clever in my opinion, advantages of the action cam setup without the focus on action and POV shooting...).

As an example of great use of the GoPro, I'd like to add this promo video was shot by Alex Lindbloom exclusively on GoPro 5s and 6s (with the exception of the aerial drone shots), rather than his more common GH5.
Lovely angles and creative use of tripod shots, lovely stuff.



Otherwise there are a few really nice clips posted on these GoPro UW video FB group that I'm sure you're familiar with:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2347204708888086
https://web.facebook.com/groups/849303718445927


I reluctantly had to archive the GoPro4S rigs for luggage/mobility reasons last year, and will now just keep the 2 GP7Bs I have and the lens modified GP6B.

I currently have no intention of upgrading these cameras to 8/9/10 as I'm satisfied with what I getting, and also recently bought a compact for video, for more flexibility  (Lumix LX10 in a Nauticam housing see https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/65996-choosing-a-compact-for-underwater-video-only-lx100ii-rx100-vvi-lx10/).

Given the current worldwide situation and the impact on travel and tourism, after some years of moving seasonally around mostly between Indonesia, Mexico and Thailand, we'll be settling down on a remote Japanese island in the near future, which might mean the possibility to dive more for myself ( lots of shore-diving options, and won't be working full-time as an instructor-guide), albeit in slightly colder and darker waters...
If we like it and end up setting up a longer-term base there, this might lead me to invest in something bigger like a second-hand GH5 rig (once the GH6 is out for instance), and might be the end of the action cam adventure for me, but I'll definitely be keeping the "GoPros in the pocket" option as handy backups.

cheers
b

The situation is completely different for dive guides and divemasters. The compactness and easy to use are the main features. So you can forget trays, external video lights or even changing filters during the dive. The new GP models have some nice features such as excellent stabilization and WB.

I like your linked video. You filmed some really nice scenes.

The second video by Alex Lindbloom shows how much difference a tripod can do. Also it includes some very nice low angle shootings.

I also considered replacing the lens in my Yi 4K to have a less distorted view but finally I found it cheaper to buy a Hawkeye Firefly 8SE with the 90 degree lens (it sells around 120-150 Euro)

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More on stabilization

 

You can be very creative regarding how to stabilize your camera; it shouldn’t be necessarily a real tripod. Actually tripod is not the best choice, since they’re not that stable underwater and you may have to add additional weight to it. It might be easier to stick your action camera to a lead block. If you want to be fancy you can even combine it with a flexible loc-line arm.

DSC09752_r.thumb.jpg.1e27c1c0b43383b7d42d4302c8bf4c02.jpg

A very effective stabilisation I’ve just tinkered from scrap metals (aluminium) I found in my DIY stuffs.

You can see two examples for such DIY stabilisation “tray”. They should be heavy enough but still light to transport them easily.

DSC09756_r.thumb.jpg.1573de0be390fcdc2f63902cb1404d2f.jpg

DSC09753_r.thumb.jpg.beb8c896192d2be7c037356a81276302.jpg

You can also by some flexible arms with clamps. It can be very useful (you can put a lead block into the clamp)

DSC09755_r.thumb.jpg.08d1b2efdee4e9faab5dfae076140edf.jpg

Very important is to respect the surrounding and place your camera on the sand or rocks not covered by life.

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This is great!

I appreciate that the focus here is "budget conscious" ideas, but I have always had better results from compact cameras. I think this is simply because I need the LCD to frame and to check sharpness. I have always found my results from action cameras disappointing...

In keeping with the budget idea, there are some excellent deals to be had in the second hand market with Canon, Panasonic and Sony compacts for example. 

I also love using filters for shooting video and these are super cheap!

Again, a great thread!

Adam

 

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I really like the idea of "camera trapping" with an action camera. I think this could get some great results. Any battery life hacks? 

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2 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

I really like the idea of "camera trapping" with an action camera. I think this could get some great results. Any battery life hacks? 

One of my videographer friends has a DIY solution to connect a battery pack via USB cable (using lots of silicone glue. Ugly but works. The accu is on land, so it can be used only in shallow water close to the shore.

There is a GP housing for a bigger battery pack:

https://www.actionpro.de/produkt/t-housing-aluminium-housing-for-gopro-hero-8-kopie/?lang=en

It gives you a bit more time for camera trap videography.

There are even more professional solutions on the market but they’re not cheap:

https://www.groupbinc.com/collections/passive-video-kits/products/copy-of-passive-video-basic-underwater-housing-kit-1-for-gopro-hero-3-4-and-gitup2-cameras

 

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6 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

This is great!

I appreciate that the focus here is "budget conscious" ideas, but I have always had better results from compact cameras. I think this is simply because I need the LCD to frame and to check sharpness. I have always found my results from action cameras disappointing...

In keeping with the budget idea, there are some excellent deals to be had in the second hand market with Canon, Panasonic and Sony compacts for example. 

I also love using filters for shooting video and these are super cheap!

Again, a great thread!

Adam 

 

The new generation of action cameras have LCD, not big ones but OK for framing. They have no auto focus but due to the tiny sensor from a certain distance everything is “sharp”. I agree that compacts can give better results. There are many nice cameras with 1 “sensor, such as the canon G7X or the Sony RX100 series. Even the Olympus T6 is great, especially for macro. They are still affordable.

My problem is that I have a Sony A6000 with many lenses; I even bought a SeaFrog housing for it. So as a step up I may skip the compact cameras.

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Terrific thread indeed. 

Kudos for the freshwater videos. Were you able to film all those fishes by using camera trap? Do you leave the camera alone and then came back later? I should film trout spawning in a river with a strong current. You gave me some ideas....

I liked too the @bghazzal color correction of his video. The Alex Lindbloom's video you posted is amazing. The article in which he explains everything geves a lot of extra suggestions:

http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-special-features/article/shooting-underwater-film-gopro-indonesia

 

 

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I really like the idea of "camera trapping" with an action camera. I think this could get some great results. Any battery life hacks? 

The old GoPro Hero 4 had this battery backpack. I used to setup camera traps for reef fish research i used to do. They would last 4hrs on recording. Then there are security camera apps that allow you to quickly see event history so you can quickly get to the action — most of the video will be rubbish. Got some good and interesting footage. Works well if you have multiple cameras and cover an area where lots of behavior happens like a nest or a burrow. Just make sure you anchor the camera well. Conditions and currents can change quickly on a reef.

Unfortunately the newer models only record for 2 hrs. I have a colleague that was able to build an acrylic box to house a gopro and a powerbank. Not sure if he had success on that endeavor of his.


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This is great!

 

I appreciate that the focus here is "budget conscious" ideas, but I have always had better results from compact cameras. I think this is simply because I need the LCD to frame and to check sharpness. I have always found my results from action cameras disappointing...

 

In keeping with the budget idea, there are some excellent deals to be had in the second hand market with Canon, Panasonic and Sony compacts for example. 

 

I also love using filters for shooting video and these are super cheap!

Again, a great thread!

Adam

 

With regard to using compact cameras, for the canon models like G15 you have the canon hacker development kit (CHDK). We would hack the cameras to become a camera trap. There are published versions of that code (motion detect and motion detect plus). There is also code available for low light imaging for night using IR lighting.

 

The code also gave an added benefit of conserving battery life because it would be basically on sleep until it is triggered.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, gobiodon said:

One of my videographer friends has a DIY solution to connect a battery pack via USB cable (using lots of silicone glue. Ugly but works. The accu is on land, so it can be used only in shallow water close to the shore.

 

There is a GP housing for a bigger battery pack:

 

https://www.actionpro.de/produkt/t-housing-aluminium-housing-for-gopro-hero-8-kopie/?lang=en

 

It gives you a bit more time for camera trap videography.

 

There are even more professional solutions on the market but they’re not cheap:

 

https://www.groupbinc.com/collections/passive-video-kits/products/copy-of-passive-video-basic-underwater-housing-kit-1-for-gopro-hero-3-4-and-gitup2-cameras

 

 

 

For battery-packs, you also have the Hugyfot housings from Belgium, some sporting 2 x Hama Premium Alu Power Packs @ 8000mAh offering 3 to 5h battery life according to the manufacturer.

https://www.hugyfot.com/housings/gopro-hero/vision-hero-5.html
https://www.hugyfot.com/housings/gopro-hero/vision-xs-hero-8.html
https://www.hugyfot.com/housings/gopro-hero/vision-xs-hero-9.html
 



But these are not really a budget-conscious option anymore....

Edited by bghazzal

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On 3/7/2021 at 11:13 PM, Davide DB said:

Terrific thread indeed. 

Kudos for the freshwater videos. Were you able to film all those fishes by using camera trap? Do you leave the camera alone and then came back later? I should film trout spawning in a river with a strong current. You gave me some ideas....

I liked too the @bghazzal color correction of his video. The Alex Lindbloom's video you posted is amazing. The article in which he explains everything geves a lot of extra suggestions:

http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-special-features/article/shooting-underwater-film-gopro-indonesia

 

 

Most of them were filmed by using "camera trap". Sometimes I just place the cameras in a stream or channel and come back in an hour. When the traffic is high (lots of kayaks and canoes) I stay close. People like to take out things from the water so I prefer to place them deep enough. Actually you can have even live view with your action camera from the shore. I played with it, it works, but I don’t use it frequently.

I do lots of snorkelling and stay close to the cameras and frequently relocate them.

In strong current you will need bigger lead block.

Thanks for the link; it’s a really nice reading.

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Most of them were filmed by using "camera trap". Sometimes I just place the cameras in a stream or channel and come back in an hour. When the traffic is high (lots of kayaks and canoes) I stay close. People like to take out things from the water so I prefer to place them deep enough. Actually you can have even live view with your action camera from the shore. I played with it, it works, but I don’t use it frequently.

 

I do lots of snorkelling and stay close to the cameras and frequently relocate them.

 

In strong current you will need bigger lead block.

 

Thanks for the link; it’s a really nice reading.

How are you using live view on your action camera? Water is opaque to Wifi and it doesn’t penetrate more than an inch.

 

Are you using a cable? I had to rig my gopro with a cable in order to use live view.

 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Pomacentridae said:

How are you using live view on your action camera? Water is opaque to Wifi and it doesn’t penetrate more than an inch.

 

Are you using a cable? I had to rig my gopro with a cable in order to use live view.

 

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I have followed this description: https://www.paulillsley.com/GoPro_Underwater_Wi-Fi_Cable_Setup/?fbclid=IwAR3-n9RdqtMoRbGfISimS9BVDC6sUNDHEM-SQkiDrv4zE6UiGvj4pWpdwV8

It works with other cameras as well. I used it with Yi 4K.

You can also check this video: 

 

Edited by gobiodon
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On 3/6/2021 at 1:56 PM, gobiodon said:

Colours, filters, external light sources

 

Besides producing stable footages it’s also important to have nice vibrant colours and it’s a bit more complicated. The cheapest solution is to stay shallow and get close to your subject. In many cases I leave my cameras on a spot I expect fish traffic in the relatively shallow water. Many cases I just wear a chest wader mainly used for angling and I place the cameras with the help of a “reacher grabber tool” mainly used by old people. It’s very useful in cold water.

 

It’s also important to camouflage your camera somehow. I observed filming parallel with a grey GoPro and the Yi4K in a white housing that the fish avoided the white object.

 

So I painted all of my plastic camera housings (I stole some nail paint from my daughter). Black or dark green works well. The only problem is that sometimes it’s also difficult to find them.

 

I tried only cheap filters and I was not that happy with the results. It cuts lots of lights so the shots are noisier and the colours are way off in the shallow. Good quality filters are expensive and the topic of this thread is low-budget videography. I would rather spend my money on a cheap light instead of an expensive filter. But maybe you have a different opinion.

 

My first underwater video light was a Evolva Future Technology D02 (40-50 Euro, 900 Lumen). You can skip this level. It doesn’t bring much, maybe a bit of kiss of lights on the fish but it’s way to weak.

 

My second light was Weefine Smart Focus 6000. I actually spent the voucher from my actioncup first prize on it. I think is a really good video light for the money (you can buy it between 540 and 600 euro. It has 6000 lumen, 90 degree (underwater), and colour temperature of 5000 Kelvin, cri (colour rendering index) = ra80. Light output is adjustable; you can add an optical condenser, so it’s perfect also for macro and close-up videography. But it’s not cheap.

 

There are cheaper lights from China and I saw many divers use them, at least in Germany. There are many versions of these sub 100 Euro video lights and honestly, they’re not that bad. I also bought one. So now I have 3 different lights. It’s absolutely not recommended. Actually for my videography, the best would be a second Weefine, and in general the best way is to use two identical lights.

 

Back to these cheap video lights. The light output is really good, not the claimed over 10K lumen but surely above 5-6K. The only thing is that the colour temperature is much colder (and probably the CRI is low). However, if you want to do wide angle videography, maybe it’s not a bad choice to use two of these cheap but powerful lights (the video light on the left).

DSC09759_r.thumb.jpg.fc77c3d0dad4685aaa3b02658c88eab0.jpg

 

 

I have used the cheap Chinese lamps for a a while now, and had fair results, I have tried adding warming gels to them (added a minus green to correct a green cast) all work well. I also use ambient filters with them.

Have a look at my article and you can see what I've been doing. All low budget. 

http://underwaterwillett.com/ambient filters.html

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Thanks Andy, an excellent source of knowledge! I may give a try to experiment with those filters

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