Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Additional Costs For Shooting In The Water


Hi folks,

I'm hoping someone can give me a good idea of the additional costs involved in shooting miniDV or beta in the water, in New York City. We need to get some shots of a model jumping into the water, where the cameraman would also be in the water. We're not looking for a solution that you'd need for serious depth - the camera wouldn't ever be more than a foot or two under the surface.

Are there any rental houses to talk to in the city? And idea of the extra costs and equipment needed?


Elliot Blanchard

As far as I know, there are a few houses that rent that sort of equipment. A friend of mine used one of those water bags, which are basically expensive zip-locks, and it fried his VX2000. I don't know what kind of insurance they offer, but in his case it was nada. It's better to be safe than sorry with this stuff, and I'd consider renting one of those specially made HD underwater cams they have in AC.

Jim Eagan
NY cameraman/editor

>I'm hoping someone can give me a good idea of the additional costs >involved in shooting miniDV or beta in the water, in New York City.

I recall seeing a company that specialized in water shots located somewhere near NYC at a trade show at the Javitts Center a few years ago. They had a long jib arm on display with an underwater camera housing that could be dipped in and out of the water. The camera head and controls were all remote.

I recall the name being Sea and Land or something like that. That may be cheaper than putting the camera op in the water or in a boat. And it may give you many more options for shots. Just a thought...

Anybody know of that outfit??

Jim Sofranko

Here's what my Google search turned up…

I've never worked with them but maybe someone here has.

Jim Sofranko

Hand Held Films … 212-502-0900 … has under water housings for DV cameras.

Nick Hoffman NYDP

Jim Eagan writes:

>A friend of mine used one of those water bags, which are basically >expensive zip-locks, and it fried his VX2000.

Arrrgh… Was the bag defective? Did he forget to zip it up tight? Did he take it below its rated depth...??

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

What he told me was that the bag had a small hole in it. He said that he tested it beforehand with no leak, so for whatever reason it opened up on the shoot. Of course he didn't sign any kind of agreement in case of damage, so he was left holding the bag (literally). The whole concept of it seems rather flimsy to me, especially for a $5k piece of equipment (or more). I'd rather spend the extra money on an underwater camera rental than an underwater housing.

I've actually considered shooting with my old hi-8 and super-8 cameras in a modified fishbowl housing, but who knows. I certainly wouldn't put any kind of high end equipment on the line without some major insurance.

Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman

I would not recommend to use soft bag for any deep stuff (deep means going under 1m with it) even if they are rated 4m or more there are too many things that can go wrong, including people closing them or prepping them incorrectly.

These type of “splashbags” are really what it says on the tin, “splashbags”, ideal for working around water.

On the subject of insurance do bear in mind that most policies specifically exclude underwater work and that in some countries, UK, CANADA, FRANCE, AUSTRALIA, to name few, there are specific regulations when it comes to work underwater, and you might be breaking some local laws or if you cause damage to equipment or structures, or god forbid, people, your insurance will not cover you.

Better check first or ask around.

Franz Pagot AIC
Director of Photography/Underwater Cameraman
mob +447770520757
London UK

>I'm hoping someone can give me a good idea of the additional costs >involved in shooting miniDV or beta in the water, in New York City...the >camera wouldn't ever be more >than a foot or two under the surface.

Hi Elliot,

I once tried shooting in a tank using a small miniDV camera in a splash bag.

My problem with using a soft bag, was that even at 2 -3 meters there was enough water pressure to activate some of the buttons on the camera so that digital effects and autofocus etc started to kick in all of their own accord. Underwater you are better off using a hard housing for the camera.

If you are only going to be one or two foot below the surface, there are several ways to get the shot :

1/. put the camera in an underwater housing, attach it to a jib arm submerge it and operate it remotely.

2/. put the camera in an underwater housing and have the camera operator operate it in the water. For your shot he /she may only need snorkel and mask.

3/. the camera can be out of the water (wrapped in cling film, or in a splash bag), use a periscopic lens attachment to get the under water shot. (In a shallow pool the tripod can be in the water.)

4/. Some pools or shooting tanks have windows that allow you to see the underwater activity from the outside. You may be able to shoot through such a window. You'll need black drape behind the camera to minimise reflections and rest the matte box right up against the glass. Photographically, this is not the best option and you have limited choice of angles.

However, options 3, or 4 may prove to be the most cost effective to get your shot.

If you have to submerge the camera, for DV cameras you can find a good housing reasonably cheap. In Europe there are many diving clubs with extremely knowledgeable members about such things, I would be very surprised if that isn't also the case in NYC. Talk to the local diving community about sourcing gear for small cameras. If you shoot on beta, you'll need to hire a housing for the camera you are using and your crew must know how to use the equipment - this will be more expensive.

More than anything, you should find out about the local laws regarding filming underwater for commercial purposes. It may be that, in certain situations, you'll be required by law to have a qualified safety diver in the water (even if the camera crew are out of the water) - in which case the cost of the diver and his equipment will add to your expenses. I'll give you an example. A few years ago I was focus pulling on a feature film in the UK.

We had to do a similar shot of an actress diving into a swimming pool (something that thousands of people do everyday). The extra equipment consisted of an underwater housing for the camera and two sets of Scuba diving gear. The shot didn't need focus pulling, but I was in the water as the safety diver.

I hope this helps and good luck with the shoot

Behzad Olia-Rosenkranz
European based Cameraman / Assistant

>1/. put the camera in an underwater housing, attach it to a jib arm >submerge it and operate it remotely.

As an aside...what heads are able to handle getting wet (say 1M)?

Dylan Macleod, csc
Toronto, Canada

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