Test Dive

Follow Focus

Fotasy Follow Focus Rig

After the focus debacle on our first dive, Karl and I decided to order a follow focus rig (on left). One noticeable flaw in the footage from our first dive was the wobble factor; the movements caused by my fingers man-handling the focus ring and my body quivering to sustain awkward contortions inevitably left a scar on the captured footage. To remedy this issue, a follow focus rig and intense abdominal exercise regime should suffice.

The follow focus rig arrived yesterday and unfortunately, does not fit within our current camera rig configuration (see illustration below)…the bulky turn-ring hits the dome window. The only way we can fit it on the rig is by moving the camera back about 2 inches on the wooden plank, but then the wood completely blocks the camera screen! An external screen would solve this problem, but we have been holding off on getting one until Canon comes out with its anticipated firmware upgrade, which will support uncompressed HDMI output (read: higher quality video).

(1) where the camera is currently screwed in; (2) after focus rig is attached and Ninja 2 mounted on top of camera rig, we should be able to move the camera farther back. The wooden rig will occlude the screen, but that won't matter any more with the Ninja 2 external recorder screen.

(1) where the camera is currently screwed in; (2) after focus rig is attached and Ninja 2 mounted on top of camera rig, we should be able to move the camera farther back. The wooden rig will occlude the screen, but that won’t matter as much with the Ninja 2 external recorder screen.

An uncompressed video signal will allow us to use an external recording device like the Ninja 2, which also has lots of terrific screen features (e.g. focus assist). Luckily, Canon just announced four days ago that the upgrade will be on April 30th – perfect timing. Until then, we will hold off on any more dedicated videography dives. If everything goes smoothly, we will be back in the water the first week of May.

Despite the ill-fitting follow focus rig, we went ahead and did a shallow dive to test out the manual focus. Less than 30 minutes into our dive, we came across what I would describe as a 1920’s flapper girl in the form of a conical jelly. A neon-green mid-section separated a white flapperesque lower half from a translucent head containing a bright orange-pink organ. It drifted and danced in front of the window for about 10 minutes before we moved on. In Karl’s 4,000 hours of diving, he has never seen this creature before.

Music: “Daytrip” by The American Dollar

For the remaining hour of our dive, we captured footage of pom pom anemones, sea lillies, featherstars, an alarming abundance of lionfish (an invasive species) and various topographical features. In such a short amount of time, we discovered a good number of potential difficulties with shooting video in a 5-ton underwater camera housing. For instance, any normal camera operation requires one person to manipulate the angle and distance of the camera in relation to the subject. Now consider our camera set-up: I control the angle of the camera, but Karl controls the distance from the subject. To make matters a bit more complicated, we are shooting with a 50 mm prime lens. What this means is that objects appear true to size (neither compressed nor stretched), and the focal length of the lens is fixed (there is no zoom). Consequently, Karl partially controls the composition of our footage: if we want to create a shot where the subject completely fills the frame, he physically has to move the sub closer to the object!

Additionally, backing up the sub in order to increase the distance between the camera and the subject pushes swirls of particles right in front of the view port. As you can imagine, diminished visibility and “dusty” water do not good footage make. This is particularly true when filming subjects like sea lillies, which have stalks attached to a sandy bottom. All of these issues will simply take more practice and the establishment of an effective communication system.

In the next two weeks, we will be modifying the camera rig to support the follow focus rig and Ninja 2. If all goes well, I’ll plan to have dive blog-post ready by the second week of May.

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~ by twonakedapes on April 22, 2013.

One Response to “Test Dive”

  1. Hi, I’m from Argentina … I have the accessory which are talking on the page and wanted to know what it’s called, if not too much trouble. Thank you …

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