I recently had the pleasure of lighting and shooting a promotional film for baby swimming company Turtle Tots on behalf of a Manchester based video production company. They specialise in aqua natal yoga, baby programmes and toddler swimming classes.
In order to demonstrate the calming approach to dipping a baby underwater I had to get in the pool as shooting from the poolside would not do this film justice. The biggest obstacle was sourcing secure underwater housing for my Sony FS7. Underwater cinematography in general is a very specialised skill and not something I had experience in before (Other than taking a GoPro on holidays). I contacted all the local hire houses and nobody had the relevant housing. I could have gone for a smaller camera but I really wanted 150fps in 10bit which only comes from my FS7. I stumbled upon BBC camera man Mark Sharman who owned a German made Sealux housing specifically designed for the FS7. Thankfully his kit was available and he was happy to hire it to me. On this occasion I decided not to purchase the housing as it's approx £9k worth of kit.
Next steps were to organise lighting. Shooting at 150fps meant I needed to throw a lot of light into the pool. The lights also had to be set back as far as possible to make ensure a safe set. I chose to light the scene with 2 x Arri HMI 1.2K lights with diffusion. I set one up as my key light and one as my backlight. That was it. Sometimes less is more when it comes to lighting.
Now to rig and test the underwater housing. I find cameras quite intuitive normally but on this occasion I needed to ensure I didn't make any mistakes. Typically for underwater shoots the housings are solid and water leakages tend to happen because of human error. I rigged my camera into the housing the night before the shoot and took it down to the hotel pool. I made sure no moisture was in the camera and that the moisture sensor was working. I used the suction pumps to draw out all the air and make a tight seal. Now the moment of truth. Placing a £10k camera and lens underwater. Hurray it worked beautifully. The Sealux housing comes with a handful of control knobs on the side meaning I could control aperture and shutter easy enough.
The following morning we arrived on set and began rigging the lighting. I made sure the camera was setup so that I had the least amount of changes to make in pool and all I had to worry about was focus. The rig wasn't fancy enough to have a wireless transmitter/ focus so I had to do everything manually. What I found really interesting was how much the water magnified the image. It's up to 25% so I had to get sharps above or below the water and maintain camera position throughout.
We filmed over 40 young children and babies swimming and laughing in the pool. It was a super fast run and gun type shoot with little to no time to adjust setups. All the kids were extremely well behaved and I don't think I saw a single child cry all day.
We shot in SLOG3 to have plenty of movement in the grade. Editing and grading were completed in Adobe Premiere Pro 2017 by the in house production company. It was a fantastic experience and I'm now seeking underwater camera operating employment at the great barrier reef, Australia (I can only ask right).
3 edits were created from the one days shoot. The client was over the moon with the final product. Hopefully it brings them plenty of new business. You can view one of the edits here: