In my last blog, I reviewed 2015’s filming and promised to share the technical highs and lows of my leap into the world of Ultra High Definition (UHD).
In January 2015, my new camera and housing arrived: a Sony PXW-FS7, my first interchangeable lens video camera, and an underwater housing from Equinox in the USA.
The PXW-FS7 is a superb camera. It produces a stunning UHD image with huge dynamic range. It’s taken me into the world of gamma curves, s-log, hypergammas and colour grading – a lot to learn. In UHD, focus is even more critical and s-log makes it harder to achieve with the washed out viewfinder image. A new high-resolution 7” monitor from Dive and See with focus magnification has made all the difference.
Taking such a magnificent camera underwater needed a housing I had utter confidence in. When the Equinox first arrived, the overall construction was bomb proof but I found the controls lacking, the stability poor, and the method of changing ports unworkable. I began a long process of customisation and, after a year of development, I now have a very slick, robust underwater housing. It has interchangeable Zen Ports for several lenses, a completely rebuilt system of controls, balanced distribution of weight through lead-filled skis and trim weights, resulting in perfect neutral buoyancy and a very stable platform for filming. Huge thanks to Rob Broadhead at HB Pressings for his brilliant problem solving, ideas, and engineering work. Thanks also to Dave Pennock for his help with many improvements and modifications, and to Mally Jenkinson for ski fabrication.
UHD files are enormous and require a high spec computer to process them, so I had to buy a new MacBook Pro – and lots of hard drives to backup all that data out in the field. It is now the running joke in the house – when the postman knocks, he is probably delivering another hard drive.
Investing in so much new kit was always going to create a step backwards before moving forwards – but it is necessary to keep ahead technically and I now find myself in full control again. The camera’s dynamic range and the wealth of colour information mean I can get the best out of all situations. The housing is now tailored to my needs and is a joy to work with underwater.
Huge thanks also to Nick Wilcox-Brown, Doug Anderson and Steve Trewhella for their advice about cameras and lenses.
I’m really excited about the filming opportunities lined up for me and my camera in 2016. Bring it on!
Images & words by Andy