By Mark Sparks, President
As a creative content provider here in the Seattle area, we get to do some interesting things from time to time. Recently, we have been doing a fair amount of underwater video work.
As a kid, I loved the old TV program “Sea Hunt.” And yeah, I was one of those kids who wrapped the family’s super 8 in Glad ‘cling wrap,’ scotched-taped it carefully together so no water would get in, held my breath and dove down to capture the amazing sights.
Took me a couple year’s worth of allowance to pay for that little adventure.
Underwater is certainly one of the most inhospitable places to take a camera, let alone all the other equipment needed to make good video. Of course, when shooting video, ‘inhospitable’ usually equates to ‘money.’
Then there is a small matter of expertise.
Like everything else we create, we do all our own shooting here at VMG. However, our vast experience stops at the waterline. To go below, we turn to one of our friends who specializes in such things. Ben Griner is one of those friends. Ben is well known in diving circles as an adventurer who, with his team, finds long-lost wrecks and explores uncharted underwater caves, all the while chronicling what he finds with video.
He does stuff that, frankly, gives me the willies just to think about.
“Sea Hunt” was shot in clear, warm, water, according to Ben, “So they didn’t have the cold, dark water we have here in the Puget Sound that is full of back-scatter. They could see forever underwater, without lights and they could stay in one position as the well-rehearsed action took place in front of them. We don’t have that luxury here.”
“Oh, that’s the amount of material in the water that reflects back light and hampers the auto focus on our cameras. It’s pretty bad here…. lot’s of silt in the water. It takes a skilled diver not to kick up a cloud at every hand or flipper motion.”
But, back to the equipment. It’s expensive. “I would say, that to do a decent job recording underwater at depth, the average diver will have about $30,000 worth of equipment on them when they go under.” That’s per diver, and, it takes many of them to shoot and light things properly.
The physical challenge of dealing with camera equipment and the lighting required is as demanding as the technical skills needed to shoot good video underwater. And things compound the deeper you go. “You have to have housing for all the gear that can withstand intense pressure, that adds weight and makes your calculation of buoyancy tricky.”
“My team and I are mostly diving to discover old wrecks here in the Puget Sound, or to explore fresh water caves in Florida,” says Ben. “But finding a ship that has been lost for years, or being the first human to see something…it’s a real rush.”
Yeah. I have that same emotion when I find a new coffee shop up here on Terra Firma.
“Our biggest find? Besides the on-going exploration of the underwater caves, we were the team that found the third sunken mine sweeper in Lake Washington. But, we do find a lot of other things…like the occasional body.”
“Yeah, one of my diving buddies has found three of them so far. Really screws up your schedule. You have to stop everything and wait for the police.”
We feel your pain, there, Ben, and wish you a lot of luck in video shoots under the surface.
If you ever have any questions about shooting video underwater, or maybe just how to make your next marketing video or corporate presentation rise above the surface, give us a call (425) 457-7100. We are VMG…your source for creative digital content.