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Film or Video Kit For Saltwater Kayaking

>Published : 15th January 2006

>This one covers film and video so I'm not sure which list is most appropriate  ...  I'll move it wherever the mums wish to direct me ...

>I've been recruited to help a rather wealthy acquaintance put together a camera package for his salt-water kayaking/wildlife adventures. We started out talking video but I also suggested he consider film if he really wanted to come away with something of value, both from an aesthetic and marketability standpoint. He's got the coin and a passion for wildlife/outdoors, so the film angle appeals to him. He's a relatively knowledgeable still photographer so he understands the benefit of film.

>But is it wise to encourage a civilian to try to load up a kayak with film gear and turn him loose in the wild?

>If he goes the video route I'm inclined to recommend the Panasonic DVX-100A.

>I would welcome thoughts from those experienced with the salt-water shooting environment on the following:

>I've researched EWA-Marine splash bags. If they work as advertised they seem to be the most practical protection. The camera will never be submerged (intentionally). The EWA web site isn't very forthcoming about what one should do if one wants to use an external microphone, or an added LCD viewfinder etc. From what I've seen of their bags, it appears impossible to use the swing-out LCD viewfinders when the camera is in the bag. Do these bags have tripod mounts?

>I'm thinking of a magic-arm style mount with a fluid head clamped somewhere on the kayak so he can operate it tripod-style from the seat of the kayak.

>We have pretty much ruled out dive housings because everything I've seen looks too unwieldy. If there's a more compact solution than the ones I've seen it would be worth considering.

>Now to the film rig :

>I'm a video guy. Very little knowledge of film cameras. I have a couple of Super-8 cameras and I shot with a Bolex once.

>Is there a 16 mm combination of camera, housing etc, along the same lines as the setup above that could be practical? Zoom lens? How to deal with magazines etc? I know this throws the audio part of the deal out the window.

>I should also say wealthy though he may be, it's probably not "money is no object”.

>I could go on and on...

>Thoughts?

>Jeff Oswald
Austin, TX


class="style11">>"But is it wise to encourage a civilian to try to load up a kayak with film >gear and turn him loose in the wild?"

>I don't think it is. Using film in itself won't guarantee his returning with something of value. Video at least will mean a shorter feedback loop, so he'll learn faster. Film could just be an exercise in frustration. That said, an A-Minima is probably the camera to use.

class="style11">"If he goes the video route I'm inclined to recommend the Panasonic DVX-100A."

>If he's launching next week, I'd say instead the new little Sony HDV, either the consumer or pro audio version, would be better. Yes, the DVX100A has more control, but the HDV has more pixels, and more pixels are more likely to be valuable in a newbie's hands than control. And it'll be easier to waterproof than the much larger Z1. In any case, audio will probably be the greater challenge. The tele-macro on the Sony could be very useful, but OTOH, you really need the flip-out touch-screen. Upcoming possibilities include the Panasonic mini-HD. I really think standard def is a waste of time nowadays.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>I can't think of any good reason to shoot this on the sony HDV, I've seen side-by-side comparisons of the HDV downconverted with the DVX and there's no difference in quality at all, no difference in latitude or contrast. I personally think the DVX is the better made camera and has a better lens.

>I find the prosumer HD format to be somewhat ridiculous right now, sold on the faulty assumption that it's "HD" so it must be better. 95% of consumers still have SD only sets. The only people that are going to benefit from prosumer HD cameras are perhaps viewers that see it transferred to film for theatrical. Prosumer HD downconverted is a total waste.

Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


class="style11">>I'd say instead the new little Sony HDV, either the consumer or pro >audio version, would be better. Yes, the DVX100A has more control, but >the HDV has more pixels, and more pixels are more likely to be >valuable in a newbie's hands than control.

>I'd recommend two lesser quality cameras, instead of a higher quality single unit. With two cameras there will never be a single circumstance when the entirety of your ability to shoot is exposed to the elements, come what may. With two, one camera will always be secured and waterproofed for retrieval, if needed. Waterproofing a camera not in use is relatively very economical.

>The only shared "opps" fate for two cameras is an event in which both are lost or damaged by things other than water damage.

>In both these cases, having 2 limits your risk somewhat, since you'll have to loose both, or damage both to be rendered "without a paddle".

>Cliff Hancuff
Washington, DC


>I’ve run into the same situation with a couple of friends who decide that they want to become “filmmakers”. They have the money to buy the equipment, they shoot a bit and then get discouraged by either having to learn how to use a NLE software or by showing their first cut to someone who gives them constructive criticism which they take as gospel and give up the project.

>I’d go cheap if I were you.

>If the guy just wants to shoot his stuff to show his family and friends, I’d say that buying a used TRV 900 Sony (cheap and plentiful on EBay) or two or three (in case one or two get dunked), a couple of the waterproof bag set ups and/or a used underwater housing (again, cheap and plentiful on eBay for this old workhorse of a camera) and get a couple of Pelican cases to keep the equipment dry. Does he actually think that he can sell this project? I for one wouldn’t pay to see anything like this unless it was a record breaker of some type (think Richard Branson in his balloon).

>And I agree with Jim that he’ll never need a high def camera. Anything more than this is just a waste.

>Mike Escher
Shooter/editor/filmmaker
West Hollywood, CA


>Right, and that's actually been my philosophy in general for "iffy" DV setups, like car mounts or effects shots that are being done on the cheap. $500 down the drain not nearly as bad as $4k.

>A couple low-end DV cameras set on auto would probably work out fine for this situation. If he wants a "film look" that can mostly be achieved in post with a good 24p conversion program like After Effects. Using a $250 camera I'd also feel less anxious about getting some more extreme shots, and that sort of thing might end up helping the project in the end. Heck even a lower-end pinhole camera could be fun to have on this kind of shoot, taped onto various locations of the raft.

Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


>Thanks for the responses so far.

>Let me say this first : This is not a "wannabe" situation. This gentleman is an accomplished still photographer who has dedicated years of time and money to wildlife and environmental causes. So please, don't naysay his commitment and desire to move into motion photography from still photography. No matter which way he decides to go, it's not a matter of him continuing to stick with it. He's been dedicated to it for years.

>This is just a new element.

Marketability isn't really an issue, even though I did mention it.


It's more like usability. Wildlife organizations he's connected to would have access to the footage etc. They might end up being the world's most expensive home movies, but he's fine with that. Whether you are or not, isn't really relevant.

>The only issues here are whether it is practical to consider film over video.

>As for the HDV stuff, I'm overwrought with ambivalence. I'm less than impressed. I'd rather see a decent SD image than a heavily compromised "HD" image.

>And let me clarify : This is salt-water kayaking, not eXXXtreme whitewater kayaking. It's the furthest thing from extreme you can get. We're talking still waters and slow paddling. Hours of idle floating. So we're not talking POV mounts. We're talking ability to fully operate the camera on a fluid head, mounted to the boat... uh... somehow.

>Jeff Oswald
Austin, TX


class="style11">>This gentleman is an accomplished still photographer

>Well, that changes things a lot. You should have said so at first...

class="style11">>I'd rather see a decent SD image than a heavily compromised "HD" >image

>I personally think you guys are overestimating the DVX100A, which I never saw the attraction of, and underestimating HDV, and HD in general. And whatever you say, HDV is just as real HD as HDCam, for better or worse - compression defects exist to greater or lesser degrees in both, and nice shooting in one beats wanky crap in the other, either way. And he can cut in SD now, and reconform it later to HD if he gets a sale - SD will be unsellable in a few years. I'd still say Sony HDV now, or Panasonic DVCProHD later, or for film, the little Aaton - I'd figure daylight loading would be essential in an open boat. And I still think audio's a big issue.

>All my opinion, for whatever it's worth, probably not a lot.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
2525 Main Street
Suite 210
Santa Monica, CA


>I agree with most of what you're saying, but I'm not so sure that "SD will be unsellable" so quickly.

>How can you defend that statement?

>The glacial speed of HD acceptance suggests to me that it won't be until at least 2010 before HD is a commonly viewed tv format, and even then perhaps only a third of the US audience. Even in 5 years, HD sets will be an investment that few TV viewers will be rushing to make. SD isn't going away anytime soon, for better or worse. If you're talking theatrical... that's another story. SD lensing is probably at it's height right now with documentary theatrical and will within the next yr or so be out of the picture.

Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


>If he goes the film route he's going to get some training and test/practice etc. before he takes off in a kayak. However, based on discussion so far, I'm thinking it might be best to recommend he go the video route, and suggest that he rent gear and hire an AC every once in a while if he wants to do some film work, and add a big boat to the floating stock.

>Tim, I respectfully disagree about the HDV. But I'm going to let him make that decision. I'm not ruling it out, I'm just inclined to steer him away from it. I personally have not been impressed with the format. My worthless opinion.

>Thanks for all the input.

>Jeff Oswald
Austin TX


class="style11">>If the guy has never worked a film camera he’s gonna be in over his >head, even if he’s the greatest still photographer ever.

>I once taught a video DP the Arri SR one morning and then later in the shoot, when I couldn't be present due to a family emergency I taught him the Aaton LTR *over the phone*

>Wanna hire me as a tutor ?

>Sam Wells
film/../nj


>Sam Wells wrote:

class="style11">>I once taught a video DP the Arri SR one morning and then later in the >shoot, when I couldn't be present due to a family emergency I taught >him the Aaton LTR *over the phone*

>Did you teach him how to load an Aaton mag over the phone?
Who paid for the call? What's your phone number?

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


class="style11">>Did you teach him how to load an Aaton mag over the phone? Who paid >for the call? What's your phone number?

>The LTR/XTR is easy enough...but for the A-Minima one really needs that movie on Abel's website to master it.

>Jeff Kreines


class="style11">> Did you teach him how to load an Aaton mag over the phone?

>Yes. (bright guy he was).

class="style11">> Who paid for the call?

>I forget

class="style11">> What's your phone number?

>Brian I have not offered my phone consultation services in a long time.

>As I'm a fast teacher but a slow learner I would need to borrow an Aaton camera for at least a few weeks in order to "get back up to speed"........

>Sam Wells
film/../nj


>Sam Wells wrote :

class="style12">>I once taught a video DP the Arri SR one morning and then later in the >shoot, when I couldn't be present due to a family emergency I taught >him the Aaton LTR *over the phone*

class="style12">> Wanna hire me as a tutor ?

>We'll need somebody. Cuz I'm damn-sure not going to be able to teach him.

>Jeff Oswald
Austin, TX


>"I'm not so sure that "SD will be unsellable" so quickly.

>How can you defend that statement? The glacial speed of HD acceptance suggests to me that it won't be until at least 2010 before HD is a commonly viewed tv format, and even then perhaps only a third of the US audience. Even in 5 years, HD sets will be an investment that few TV viewers will be rushing to make."

>Sorry for quoting so much. In a nice, friendly way I'd like to suggest that you might want to come down out of the Catskills and see what's going on after that game of ninepins.

>Exhibit A :

>I believe that the NAB had agreed to NTSC going dark in 2009 - a mere four years from now at best - but are still haggling with Congress over where the $50 set-top-boxes are coming from, whether cable should be forced to must-carry multicasting, and which day of the year is the fateful day (pointing out that suddenly depriving people of the Tournament of Roses Parade might not be such a good idea.

>Exhibit B :

>Been shopping lately? Best Buy? Costco? WalMart? Circuit City? If there are four aisles of TV's, what are the first three? We can argue (and have) whether or not these sets are true HD, but they most assuredly are not NTSC, or any other standard def. People are buying them, or the stores wouldn't be selling them. Most of them even have ATSC tuners in them now.

>Exhibit C :

>So what phenomena do you ascribe this year's 10-15% drop in theatrical receipts? Many, many people point to home theater as the culprit, and I think they're right. Drop a couple hours and the better part of ten grand at the Magnolia section of Best Buy, and you too can set up your living room to be at least 75% as good a presentation as your local multiplex, but with a pause button and cheaper popcorn. Pay for it with your home equity LOC.

>Exhibit D :

>You probably aren't feeling it in NY the way we are in post here in LA, but the HD-DVD motors, Sony-Ray and Toshiba-Ray, are seriously revving up behind the scenes.

>Exhibit E :

>Fresh announcements of mid-priced workaday HD cameras from Sony and Thomson at IBC mean that local origination, ENG, EFP, and studio, can now go all-HD, beyond the helicopter that got added after NAB. Soon you'll see schedules 100% HD origination, not just primetime network feed mixed with uprez.

>I could go on, but my point is that the HD momentum argument is news from two years ago. The train has now left the station, as it should.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>Tim,

You ought to read Mark Shubin’s Monday memo. It put all of your exhibits to shame. Most folks in the US don’t have HD, don’t want it and 46% of those that have analog sets think they already have it. About 16% of consumers have some from of digital set and probably 2 million of 300 million sets are HD capable and actually receiving it, and the bad news it that TV set purchases are decreasing. I will not go into what he said about HD elsewhere in the world. Read it.

Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.


class="style12">>Exhibit C : So what phenomena do you ascribe this year's 10-15% drop >in theatrical receipts? Many, many people point to home theater as the >culprit, and I think they're right.

>Actually I think that's more due to the availability of current releases being available for broadband Internet download before being mass copied and sold locally by thieving parasites.

>I can go to the local market and buy a complete copy of a film that hasn't even been released in the UK yet. Strange thing is that the legal system here is so self-serving that they do nothing to stop this blatant theft. (It's not piracy…It's just plain theft.)

>Where's the incentive to produce movies when you know that others are going to be feeding off your back and seriously draining the financial income from the film? Maybe it's time F.A.C.T hired a hit squad of assassins.

>Clive Mitchell
http://www.bigclive.com


>I hadn't heard that about 2009 as the end-date of NTSC, last I heard it was 2012. Either date to me seems insane. So broadcasters are suggesting that in the next 3-6 years 300 million tv viewers will be buying new tv sets? That's insane. Lets face it, 2012, majority of the country will still have SD sets. Now they may be viewing downconverted, I'm not sure what the different streams will be at that point, but there's no way that even a third, 100 mill., will have bought HD televisions in that time. So while broadcasts may be HD originated, most people will still be watching SD, just downconverted in this case. And as long as SD sets are in the majority, SD will be a viable broadcast format.

>And none of this suggests that I dislike HD, but I'm simply being realistic. Broadcasters have too much to lose by simply cutting off that majority of slow adopters. Personally I don't know anyone in a rush to get HD signals. Perhaps new programming choices offered digitally, like on-demand, are becoming popular. But I don't think the avg person really dislikes the SD signal, as much as they dislike their programming choices.

>Jim Eagan
NY editor/cameraman


class="style12">>You ought to read Mark Shubin’s Monday memo. It put all of your >exhibits to shame.

>Shame is a bit strong, and of course he's a bit of an Eeyore, too I read it - I agree that there's mass confusion out there as to what has a receiver and not, and the CES footdragging is mostly to blame, not to mention poorly marked boxes. IMHO the FCC should've stepped in earlier with a mandate. Wasn't it Shubin who said that the 85% rule for B&W wasn't met until 1981? By that yardstick, HD is zooming ahead. Curiously, at home, we have _three_ DTV receivers, but _no_ HD screens (apart from computer), and are watching entirely OTA DTV. My wife has an LG HD PVR - hooked up to a 13" Trinitron! It's a long story.

>But I still think you guys have a glass-half-empty attitude about HD acceptance.

>Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA


>Jeff Oswald wrote:

class="style12">>The EWA web site isn't very forthcoming about what one should do if >one wants to use an external microphone, or an added LCD viewfinder >etc. <snip> it appears impossible to use the swing-out LCD viewfinders >when the camera is in the bag. Do these bags have tripod mounts?

>Jeff,

>I just returned from the Rocky Mountains, where I was shooting a white water kayak rescue re-creation for an upcoming Hallmark Channel series called "Heroes."

>Yes, we did fun waterproof POV cameras, but we also shot with the DVX100A. I used the EWA V1000 submersible bag when I was personally in the water and hand holding on the surface. You can only use the viewfinder and not the LCD screen and it is awkward to get the back of your camera up to your face enough to even see the viewfinder.

>Also the seal is a bar clamp along the top of the bag that kept getting in the way of my helmet when I would raise the camera to my eye. You can get to some of the controls through the clear flexible vinyl, but it is very limiting and occasionally frustrating. It was impossible to judge focus and I was taking it out of the bag constantly. There is no tripod thread. The only way to have an external monitor or mic would be to leave the bag unsealed.

>I wouldn't recommend using it unless you were submerging it or in constant danger of doing so. I think there are other actual "splash bags" (non submersible) that offer more control but I am not familiar with them. I would probably just use a good rain cover that allows almost all functionality (including mic and LCD) like the Petrol. I think shooting film on the water in a documentary situation without a crew would be very impractical and unfeasible for anyone not intimately familiar with operating and maintaining motion picture cameras. Film camera underwater housings are primarily made for diving and are big, heavy (adjustable weighting) and cumbersome.

>I found the telephoto adapter for the DVX invaluable and I would recommend it for your friends shoot if he chose to go video. It is not usable in the underwater bag.

>Jendra Jarnagin
NYC DP
www.floatingcamera.com