Several years ago, I was teaching a very busy cavern diving course on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The only free time away from the students to do any of my own diving was at night. On one particular night, my buddy Bob Titus and I headed out into the jungle to do a "sneak" dive. Bob and I were acting like a couple of Steve Irwin clones, walking down a dark, muddy jungle trail, listening to wild animals moving in the bushes near by. It was raining and absolutely spooking until we had entered a Cenote called HoTul. Bob had a very nice digital video camera in a Light in Motion housing with a couple of Halogen lights mounted on top.

John Walker Videography Cave
Photo by Bill Reals

The trail was narrow and led us over a ravine then down a rocky slope. We handed Bob's camera back and forth as though we had a third camera man shooting video for us. Inside the cave we continued this process while swimming with two stage bottles clipped to our sides. After dropping the first stage bottle, we soon realize how unproductive it was trying to swim with four aluminum 80's and a camera. These sort of dives require the use of underwater propulsion vehicles, but we had not brought ours on this trip. During the rest of the dive Bob and I simply ended up staging some pretty cool shots, exiting the cave two and a half hours later. To our surprise this footage made for an excellent little video once edited.

A couple of years later, I was encourage to videotape my students during the "skills" phase of their underwater training. This could be played back during the next classroom session where we could analyze techniques and discuss them amongst our group. I ended up dropping a few bucks into a single chip Sony TRV27 camera and a Light in Motion housing, accompanied by a pair of 24 watt HID lights. This setup worked fine for capturing the students progress but I needed a little more out of a camera to document other dives in finer detail.

In 2003, Gary Fabian and Ray Arntz discovered the lost German Submarine, UB88. Kendall Raine and I had just returned from an awesome cave diving adventure and were asked if we would dive and document their discovery. The TRV27 was used for the first dive but the footage was nowhere near broadcast quality and we knew we needed some quality video for a upcoming News piece. So I dove in and bought a new camera and housing. This was a 3 ccd chip Sony TRV950 and another Light in Motion "Stingray" housing. The size of these smaller prosumer camera's is certainly attractive. There a lot easier to handle and squeeze into tight places. This Stingray housing was simple too with only a few controls.

SonyTRV950 vs A1U
Sony TRV950, Light in motion Stingray housing and the Sony A1U, Light in Motion Bluefin housing

A couple years later, the High Definition revolution has "slowly" rolling in. Andrew Georgitsis had offered me an opportunity to go to Poland with him as part of an international dive team and video the newly discovered German Aircraft Carrier, Graf Zeppelin. He was convinced that HD was the only way to go if National Geographic was going to air the footage. I had been eyeing the small Sony A1U camera that a buddy had. It was compact, had professional audio capability for the surface, shot 16:9 HD format on mini DV tape. The only down side that I could see was the single CMOS sensor and small lens. 7 LUX wasn't all that good for the types of diving we liked to do. Deep, and dark waters which often included cave's and the inside of shipwrecks.
light in motion bluefin housing Salvo Video lights
I had been using a pair of 24 watt HID lights on both the TRV27, TRV950 and tried them with the A1U. After reviewing some recent cave footage, I realized that these lights would either need new bulbs at $250.00 a pop or have to be replaced entirely. Thats when I ordered a whole new lighting set up with twin 35 watt HID video lights. These babies worked great for those big dark shots. Each of the 35 watt light heads puts out 3000 lumens at a color temperature of 6000 kelvin. They use the large reflectors which defuses the light nicely. They are a bit large at 2.85" x 8" but thats the only way I have found to get exceptional lighting.

Camera technology continues to advance at a rate that is hard to stay up with. I am already in the market for two new cameras. One for underwater, the other for soly surface use.

Xscooter w/ camera
The size of the A1U in a Light in Motion housing fits nicely on a X- Scooter

Shooting good video is only half the battle. And to be honest, it's typically the easier half. Video Editing is one of those things thats going to take some time to learn. But their are good resources out there from websites to actual classes. I found this great site for Apple Final Cut at www.kenstone.net .

Voiceover really helps to maintain the interest of the viewer. If you write a script you can pay someone to record the voice over for you. Otherwise, purchase a microphone a just belly up to it. I don't possess the skills of a true voiceover artist but their are some advantages of being able to do it yourself. Below is the AKG Perception 100, large diaphragm condenser microphone and the M-Audio Mobile Pre USB pre-amp that I currently use.

condensor microphone for voiceover work

It's easiest to come up with a script and lay down video track to that script. During playback, you may want to make corrections or simply change the entire feel of the video. Voice levels and pitch also effect the mood of a video. As a diver and videographer, I feel I know a little better what type of mood should go with what ever I shot. It could be fun and uplifting, scary or just somber. These are things that a professional voiceover artist is going to have to be briefed on.

Music is nice, dubbed in under the voiceover. And to keep it real with some breathing accents. There are many places to find royalty free music. It will require listening to many demo tracks to find music that will possibly work with your film. Unfortunately its hard to know until you lay it down under your video project. There are some free, royalty free site's you an rummage thru too. Like www.freeplaymusic.com

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon, legally to share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators.

For the Apple users out there, Soundtrack is an option. With thousands of instrumental loops, the user can design their own music tracks. When your done, you own it. No license required. Kinda like driving a boat. I've put together a few pieces of work and found it to be quit a challenge.

Disclaimer:
This site is NOT intended to teach anyone how they should dive. It is simply reflecting on what I have done and continue to do and is my opinion only. Proper dive training should be gained before attempting anything involving the use of a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA).