Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting that Underwater Shot



Sometimes you're going to write something that you have no idea how to shoot. It may be a tough-to-get location, or elaborate action sequence, or anything underwater. It may sound great on the page, but implementing said words may prove difficult for the movie with the $1000 budget.

Submerged shooting is tough, and usually solved by some expensive piece of gear. Since we don't buy expensive gear on this blog, what do we do? What if we want to be the next Cousteau, or just want that cool angle of the body falling into the swimming pool?

There are viable solutions out there, costing from as much as $70 to about $3. You still have to obtain scuba gear or just hold your breath (the perfect microbudget solution), but the following are some ways others have found to waterproof a video camera for that below water adventure you've been writing.

The Home Depot Housing
Bobby_M over at Instructables has designed a great looking professional style rig for $70 in parts from your favorite hardware store. It's the classic model, using a large PVC pipe with window and compression spring latches. A rubber O-ring keeps the water out, and two nice handles flank the tube for aiming whilst you propel yourself through the water. There is no access to the monitor (or any manual controls), but you should be able to peer through the viewfinder. If not, just shoot wide and aim in the general direction. This rig is built for a specific camera and could not be used if you acquire anything larger in the future.

The Camera in the Plastic Bubble
Nick Papadakis has a design that is cheaper (but how cheap?) than the above, provides access to all controls, and can be used (or easily adapted) for any size camera. Basically a urethane bag with a window, this "soft housing" contains a bracket that you simply mount the cam to, reverse the bag (which is attached to the window), seal and shoot. I don't think this model could withstand the pressure as deep as the first, but it is very flexible and would be a great addition to any gear box.

"Rubberizing" your Camera
This method is the most resourceful, the cheapest and can be put together in a matter of minutes. It's also the second-best use for a condom I've ever seen. Yep, it's your camera covered by a prophylactic to keep the water out. You are limited by camera size (you'll have to use a digital still camera with video capability) and your footage may be a bit fuzzy, but this is the epitome of microbudget cinema. It also makes for a hilarious production story.

"Necessity is the mother of invention", not to mention motivation for a filmmaker with little or no money.

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