Video cameras keep getting smaller, lighter and at the same time more powerful with more options and better resolution. The latest addition to this ever-changing market is the GoPro Hero 3.
The Hero 3 Black Edition was tried in full sun in shallow water with a white sandy bottom to deep water under a thick cloudy sky. We used a red correction filter on the camera and put it under some of the most difficult shooting environments as far as exposure and color correction. In the end I was impressed at the camera’s ability but with no fault to the camera, I did find one drawback which I’ll explain a little later.
The camera has a fixed lens which utilizes different sizes of the sensor. Wide uses the whole sensor, medium less, and narrow a smaller part of the sensor. For these two shoots I used medium and found that the best distance for focus was roughly half an arms length to a maximum of 15′ to 20′ away. The camera was designed as a POV (Point of View) camera and shines at these focal distances.
As with using any video camera underwater, you want to try and keep the sun behind you or point the camera down away from the sun. Shooting into the sun will blow the highlights out especially against a sandy bottom. The Hero’s auto exposure worked amazingly well and I found nothing that any other camera would have done differently. In the shallows I always prefer to shoot under overcast skies. This helps reduce the chance of blown-out highlights.
So which color setting to choose for underwater? Auto white balance or Protune?
It depends . . . if you’re shooting for your favorite video hosting site and want to do a quick upload, the auto white balance works well with a word of caution, the footage will look over-saturated. If you can adjust your saturation, you’ll have some amazing results with the Hero 3. Watch your depth 15′ to 45′ works best. I did a minor adjustment in the above video by adjusting the saturation to 85%. The majority of the clips were just too over-saturated.
In our auto white balance setting I found that the color shifted several times when shooting in the deep blue. This was the only time this occurred probably because the camera had little to white balance off of. Other than those few seconds, the color from the camera was stable during the hour long dive.
I found Protune yields the most latitude in color correction but be prepared to spend time at your video editor. If you have the skills, knowledge and proper software to do a lot of tweaking to your footage then the setting works well. If your not interested in investing that time and energy, then its best to stay away from the setting. As GoPro explains in their user manual, only use if your an advanced user.
The biggest drawback to the camera underwater, which is no fault of the camera or the manufacturer was stability. The camera is so light that trying to keep the camera stable underwater was the biggest challenge. Its size lets you go places to get shots that the typical underwater video camera and housing cannot squeeze through. This opens up an unlimited area of possibilities for the GoPro user. Proper bouyancy control is critical to get the smoothest footage. Luckily the GoPro shoots at 60 fps in 1080p and 120 fps in 720p. I slowed the footage down to 50% (speed) in a 30fps export to take some of the shake out. Using a good stabilization software could take out the rest.
A word of caution. You’ve copied your files to your computer and you’re about ready to format your mini SD card for the next dive or adventure. I found that by doing so you’ll wipe out the latest WiFi update. The best method on a Mac platform was to put the files from the card into the trash and empty the trash. This saves you from going back and re-uploading the upgrade.
And the final version below:
Red Color Correction Filter by Cube Filter 3, Red for Tropical & Blue Water
Post Color Correction Magic Bullet Looks
Music by Marie Hines TheMusicBed.com
Special thanks to Andy, Nancy, David, Dawn, Steve, Jean, Gary and Dianna.