If you’ve ever wanted to produce an amazing underwater film, there are a few tips that will help you when practicing before commissioning your masterpiece.
Try to stay still: It sounds easy, as your camera is supported by water and should be stable, but while it’s true that most underwater footage isn’t prone to camera shake, any amount of unnecessary movement can be very distracting. You can either hold the housing as close to your body as possible or use a tripod. Also make sure that you record more than usual in a single shot and don’t adjust where you’re pointing the camera or change the zoom during that time.
Make use of a tripod with underwater filming: As a film maker, you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to keep a camera 100% still when you film underwater, but you can remove that last trace of shakiness by using an underwater tripod. Using a tripod will take your macro footage to the next level and it’s also very useful when shooting from a wide angle. You will get better footage if you leave the tripod set up on your subject and swim away – sea creatures are much friendlier to cameras without divers.
Camera Housing: “More important than using a tripod, is trim. Your camera housing should be weighted so that it does not move in the water. You should be able to let go of the housing and have it stay in one place. This will greatly improve your operating. You shouldn’t have to fight the housing.” (Contibution by Under Water DP Ian Takahashi, www.iantakahashi.com)
Move around and follow the action: Videos are more appealing when they contain a variety of shots. Along with your still footage, also aim to get some that follow your subjects either by following with your body still and panning, or by actually swimming after your subject. Each time you kick will make the camera shake so try to push off something or do a frog kick so you can film a long, stable shot while coasting. It’s impossible to follow any underwater creature forever so after you’ve filmed some amount of motion, hold the camera still and let the subject swim out of frame.
Keep filming: Storage devices such as memory cards are cheap so record more than you need to. Always remember that some cameras take a little bit to get going after you press the record button and that usually seems to be the moment with all the action. If there is a particular sea creature loitering in the area, leave the camera recording, but put your hand in front of the lens so you can easily see when editing that nothing is there. The disadvantage of this is that you will have more footage than usual. The more footage you take, the more editing will need to be done.
Get your white balance right: Make sure you understand your camera’s white balance functions. If you’re filming in ambient light with a red filter, you’ll need to manually adjust your white balance. Manual white balance normally means pointing the camera at something white and hitting a button or a series of buttons. It can be enticing to just fix it in editing, but fixing it in the camera will produce a much better look.
Always check your footage: There are so many things that can ruin a whole film shoot and render hours a film work useless. To get a really good look at your footage, look at it on a big screen, HD TV. You might think that you’ve taken great footage, but when you play it back, something as simple as a bit of dust on the inside of the lens can fool the autofocus. Even if you are off site or on location, it’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re getting the results you want.