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Website home>Newsletters>April 2004>Underwater Videography

Scuba Diving Phuket Newsletter

PADI Underwater Videographer Specialty

All Scuba Divers know what an amazing place the underwater world is. But have you ever tried to explain your passion to non-divers? Words simply cannot do justice to what we experience when we dive. Even a photo fails to convey the fluid beauty of, say, a manta ray as it glides over your head. Only video can truly capture your diving experiences and now, thanks to high quality modern video cameras, producing professional quality underwater movies is within anyone's reach.

The PADI Underwater Videographer Specialty Course teaches you all you need to make a movie that you'll be proud to show to friends and family. From choosing the right system for your needs, maintaining and handling the equipment, professional shooting techniques and editing, it's all covered in this 2 day course. The typical course includes 3 dives that can be done at any of the world famous Phuket diving sites and our experienced video pro' can recommend the best sites so that you get the best shots.

Student's view:

I'd wanted to try underwater video since I first started diving but wasn't sure where to begin. There's so much information about it on the web and so many different bits of kit available that I was baffled. I decided that I needed some expert advice so I enrolled on the PADI Underwater Videographer Specialty Course.

The course consisted of some initial theory where my instructor went through the pro's and con's of different equipment configurations. He'd used various different brands of cameras, housings, lights and so on over the years and his experiences were enlightening. He showed me how to care for the equipment and how to prepare it all for a dive. We also discussed techniques for diving safely with a video camera and tips for better handling underwater in preparation for my training dives.

I had a lot of questions about everything and my instructor answered all that I threw at him. I'm certain that his hints and tricks saved me from making many frustrating mistakes that I would otherwise have made.

Potato cod and videographer - photo coutesy of Marcel Widmer - www.seasidepix.com

I chose the Similan Islands for my training dives because they have the best visibility in Thailand and the most fish life. Our first dive was on an easy, shallow reef so that I could take my time and get used to handling the equipment. Once my instructor was happy that my buoyancy control was ok, something that's absolutely vital to taking decent shots without damaging the reef, we began to practice various shooting techniques. I filmed everything and anything, I was so excited. I'd been told that the Similans were regarded as some of the world's best diving and I'd have to agree. There was just so much life there and I remember thinking to myself, I hope the instructor has plenty of spare cassette tapes. During our surface interval we reviewed what I'd shot and talked about what I could improve. On the second dive I was a bit more focused. I slowed down and felt like I was getting the hang of it. For the third dive we developed a basic storyline for the dive which I directed and shot. Later I found that having this plan added some continuity to my shots.

In the evening we downloaded my footage onto a laptop. Everyone in the dive shop wanted to have a look at what I'd filmed and I must admit that I was pretty nervous about their reaction; after all, this was only my first attempt. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the results and flattered by some of the positive comments from the others. After a little editing, adding a few effects, titles and a soundtrack to the footage we were ready to burn my masterpiece onto a DVD. It was nice to have something that I could take home with me, and although I doubt it'll be showing on the Discovery Channel any time soon, it's a wonderful reminder of a great course!

Instructor's view:

One of the great things about teaching the PADI Underwater Videographer Specialty Course is that you see such a rapid improvement in your students' ability. Filming underwater is one of those things that you could teach yourself but it's a long hard road littered with pitfalls along the way. In my opinion good instruction is invaluable. There are so many basic mistakes that all beginners tend to fall into (I know, I've done them all!). Being taught how to avoid these early on can save a lot of frustration and a lot of wasted dives. It gets people filming quality shots more quickly.

Filming at Kingcruiser Wreck, Phuket

The other thing that I particularly like about teaching underwater video is that there is always something new for me to learn myself. Sure, I can recommend a lot of different shots that I know work well, but filming is an art not a science so there are no hard and fast rules about what works and what doesn't. At the end of the day it comes down to what the viewer likes.

Also, there are so many options to be creative underwater. A shot that above the water would need cranes or trolleys to be filmed can be performed easily in the weightless underwater environment.

A word of warning to all potential underwater videographers though. Filming underwater is highly addictive! You'll want to dive more and more, in every location and you'll never want to leave the water until your tank is almost completely drained because you'll always be looking for that perfect shot.

Anyone can enrol on the PADI Videographer Specialty Course. The only pre-requisite is that you be PADI Open Water Diver certified. However, if your buoyancy control is not great, your shots will not be great either. If you think that your buoyancy control could use some improvement consider taking the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course first.

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