A while ago, an amazing video of some Australians larking around on a cliff near Sydney was making the rounds as the latest viral sensation. In the video, one of the group leaps of the cliff into the blue water below him with a Go Pro, and after he hits the water and returns to the surface and the bubbles start to clear from the front of the camera, a gigantic great white shark looms in a few feet away and swims by – narrowly missing the young man. As it turned out, this video was not a real-life close shave with a great white, but rather the latest viral marketing campaign for Go Pro cameras. And it is precisely this type of robustness and ease of cross medium use that make Go Pros one of the ultimate diving accessories. However, don’t think they are just a toy for messing around with on a dive; they are able to produce some outstanding footage at professional quality that any natural history program would be proud of. So how do you get started using a Go Pro on your dives?
The first thing you need to decide is which Go Pro to acquire, and what accessories are crucial for shooting great video. You fundamentally have 3 choices: the Hero 6, the Hero 5, and the Hero. The clear winner across all boards is the Hero 6. It trumps the other two by having an inbuilt stabilizer – built in screen – no less – which reduces the need to spend more money on an external screen. It has better resolution and performance than the Hero 5 and Hero, and although it does match some of the insanely high performance specs of the Hero 5 Black, the fact that it can shoot in 4k, 1080 at 60 fps, and up to 2.7k at 30 fps will satisfy the most demanding users except possibly Mr Steven Spielberg. Overall, the Hero 6 offers the best performance and value for money balance of all the cameras available at the minute.
We have all the newest Go Pro models in stock at our office in Khao Lak as well as accessories for diving. Come check our shop if you want to buy a GoPro in Khao Lak.
The first thing you need to do, is to decide on which resolution to shoot in. Don’t be tempted to go hell for leather and try and shoot in the highest resolution and frame rate possible. Doing this will create more problems than it will solve. From the Hero 3+ plus model, the default mode is 1080p at 30 fps. This is more than adequate for the best underwater footages. Remember you are not filming a Hollywood blockbuster. This setting will provide great footage for almost any scenario, and with more experience you might then decide to alter the fps depending on what you are filming.
The classic example of when you would use a higher fps is when shooting an animal, especially a fish, in hunting mode. This is so that you can capture the amazing feature most fish have of being able to throw their jaws out of their mouths to engulf their prey. Shooting a scene like this in 60 fps will enable you to create a super smooth slow motion sequence when it comes to editing the film. Shooting in 30 fps can create a somewhat stutter and less smooth sequence. As a general rule of thumb the faster the event you are filming is unfolding, the faster the fps you need to be using.
The key to great footage with good color saturation and exposure underwater is using the right filter for the conditions you are shooting in. If you are shooting in clear water up to a depth of about 6 meters then you don’t need to use any filters, in fact using a filter will probably produce a rather unpleasant red-color effect to your footage. Once you go deeper, then you need to use a correction filter. Which one depends on the water you are diving in.
Once you descend past six meters, the red color light waves disappear, this results in the camera sensor getting confused and its white balance metering getting off track. Which results in footage with an overwhelming blueish hue. To remedy this, you need to use a red filter on the lens. This red filter adds back the vibrant colors needed to create rich and interesting videos. Red filters are best used in tropical blue waters and between a depth of 5 to 20 meters.
Magenta filters are the answer for green waters, but not only do they help put back the vibrant color in the footage, they also help improve and bring back color contrast which gets distorted in green water. Like red filters, they perform at their best between a depth of 5- 20 meters.
Once you go beyond a depth of twenty meters, you have lost so many wave lengths of light that one filter is just not going to cut the mustard anymore. In order to shoot interesting and colorful videos you will need to start using a video light system. Which system you choose is really dependent on your budget. The range goes from enormous systems costing thousands of dollars to some much smaller light setup that fit comfortably on a Go Pro handle and can be used along with the camera with one hand only.
One thing to note though is that along with the lights you will need to buy a tray and handle to be able to properly mount your lighting system to the camera.
Check out our video of Richelieu Rock with GoPro camera.