How to take great wide-angle underwater video

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Shooting wide-angle underwater video can be more challenging than it sounds. There are different camera settings and shooting techniques involved than in macro video. If you want to try it out for yourself, this guide will help you a lot. It contains helpful tips on which settings to use and what to do while filming.

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The lenses

For wide-angle underwater video, you’ll need a wide-angle lens for your camera. The two wide-angle lenses available are rectilinear and fisheye lenses. However, for videography, a wide-angle rectilinear lens will work best. Fisheye lenses can be used too, but are mostly meant for underwater photography. 

The settings

Set your white balance manually and use autofocus for wide-angle underwater footage. We recommend shooting at a resolution of 1080p and a frame rate of 60fps. Furthermore, your ISO should be between 100 and 200 and your aperture at around f/8.

The colour

One of the most important things to know about underwater photos or videos is that colours tend to get lost. And the deeper you dive, the more colours start to fade. To fix this, you can use a colour correction filter with your video camera. Check the colour on your monitor while filming. If the colours appear too warm, use a less intense filter. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to use your video lights for wide-angle footage. This will help to bring out colours that would otherwise appear bleak or faded. 

Moving the camera

The camera’s movement underwater plays a large role in how the wide-angle footage will appear. The first and most important aspect here is stability. Make sure that you keep your camera as steady as possible while filming in wide-angle. This means getting a tray with handles to hold your camera steady. Furthermore, always try to kick slowly and stably when moving underwater.

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You won’t necessarily have tools like tripods and dollies. But you can still incorporate cinematic camera movements underwater. Keep your camera nice and steady and kick slowly towards your primary subject to create a dolly effect. You can tilt as well by keeping the camera level and moving it slowly up or down. If you want a pan shot, it’s a little more difficult to keep the camera level while moving it from side to side. Bear in mind that you can get an underwater tripod for this as well. However, carrying it around while diving can be a bit of a nuisance. 

Composition

Your rule of thirds still counts for wide-angle underwater video. Also, make sure you have an interesting primary subject to focus on. Try not to have a too-busy background when filming your subject. If you’re taking footage of a sea creature, the eye is usually a go-to primary focal point to place in the rule of thirds. In addition, make sure that the subject has enough headspace in the frame, as well as lead room. Lead room leaves space for the creature to move into in front of its face. Since wide-angle shots include more of the scene than a macro shot, ensure that you follow these rules. 

General wide-angle underwater video tips

  • Like with all underwater video footage, make sure the sun is behind you when filming.
  • Try to get as close to your subject as possible. You still want to incorporate detail and have a variety of shots for your video. It will also allow your camera to pick up colours better.
  • Make sure your video lights are spread out and cover a wide portion of the scene. However, make extra sure that your primary subject has the best lighting.

Use these tips for wide-angle underwater video and you can’t go wrong on your next underwater shoot. Wide-angle video is something you need to practise to get it right. Try to shoot both macro and wide-angle when compiling and underwater film. This will ensure a wider variety of interesting shots and angles. For a chance to try both of these skills, sign up for our next Underwater Videography program.

Rouxne van der Westhuizen profile

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Rouxne has an Honours degree in journalism and media studies. She is the course director for the Travel and Environmental Journalism program and specialises in wildlife conservation writing, travel journalism and blogging.

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Comments

1 Comment
  1. posted by
    Interceptor121
    Mar 27, 2020

    Hi. I see that you have referred to my article for rectilinear lenses however that is for photography. As you can read from the article itself rectilinear lenses are a bad idea as they require small apertures and also have focus issues. Much better to use an afocal wet lens and accept some distortion. Of course for pro use it is still possible to use a rectilinear lens when there is plenty of light

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