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Underwater Videography - Enabling Your Creativity

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Serge - Pro Underwater Cinematography Course

[dropcap color="" boxed="no" boxed_radius="8px" class="" id=""]S[/dropcap] erge Dezutter, joined the FilmCo to undertake one of our larger training programmes, having come to us with no previous production experience but a solid DiveMaster Training from Davey Jones Locker, Koh Tao. Through out some ups and downs concerning his ability to dive we adjusted the focus a little and concentrated on what we could achieve. And o'my did he have some big ideas.

This fictional creation is a parody of a sporting event - which  he dreamt up the first ever World Underwater Bubblering Championships held right her on Koh Tao. Even with a few of the sound issues that we had we think that Serge has produced a fun film and has learnt an incredible amount in this short space of time.

[checklist icon="fa-dot-circle-o" iconcolor="#4f4f4f" circle="yes" circlecolor="#cccccc" size="medium" class="" id=""]
[li_item icon="fa-glass"]Congratulations Serge PADI Underwater Cinematographer[/li_item]
[li_item icon=""]We wish you all the best for your next adventure[/li_item]
[li_item icon="fa-music"]And know that you will have fun what ever you do[/li_item]

Documentary-Style Shooting

One of the most thrilling and frustrating elements of my job is filming documentary style. From 6:30am onwards the day moves at a rapid pace. As a documentary videographer, I need to be two steps of what is occurring in "real time" in order to control and frame my shots as efficiently and effectively as possible. Documentaries attempt to present a story as fluidly as possible, which will often obscure the fact that they are actually constructed products which result from excessive filming and careful editing. I frequently film the exact same shot repeatedly until I feel the shot was captured at the perfect moment (and as smoothly as possible with handheld panoramic shots). My old ballet teacher's advice reverberates in my ear, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." It is a style of shooting that requires steady hands, a keen eye, and a lot of patience.

My documentary skills were particularly put to the test this past week, when filming my friend Pete's surprise  proposal to his girlfriend Jen -  underwater. A marriage proposal is a moment that only occurs once. There is no "cut" or "re-shoot" if something fails. So, I had to be prepared to shoot at a moment's notice and capture the romantic scene. Preparedness in a shoot of this style is everything. It is incredibly important to set up a schedule, check equipment in advance, bring back up gear if necessary, and enter with a "plan of attack." There is no room for error. However, there will always be elements (weather, humans, fishes, equipment) that are completely out of our control. Ah, the thrill of documentary filming!

I was fortunate. The weather was beautiful, the interviews went smoothly and the dive conditions were lovely. Everyone was agreeable and comfortable in front of a camera. The shots flowed with ease and I felt creative and excited to make a video different from my daily Open Water videos. The nerves and excitement of the group were palpable under the sea, as we eagerly explored a new dive site and awaited Pete's proposal. I fought my usual tendency to go off exploring and stuck close to the group, waiting for a sign from Pete. Finally, towards the end of the first dive, the moment happened. Pete got down on one knee and proposed marriage. Jen could not have been more surprised! My battery didn't die! The lighting was perfect! She said "Yes!" Though my stress was none compared to poor Pete's, I, too, breathed a sigh of relief that we had both completed our separate tasks successfully. It was a lovely day to be with friends and I was so happy to be able to capture this once in a life-time moment.


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Paramonacanthus japonicus

In my recent post about witnessing fishes "kissing", I vowed to create a database of lesser known species for divers who are as curious as myself about the fish we see and interact with everyday. The other day while diving at Junkyard, I saw a fish that I had never seen before. I asked the instructor Tommy as well as my coworkers at The Film Company but it was the first time that all of them had seen this fish before as well. After thoroughly examining my footage of this lovely little horned creature, I noticed physical features reminiscent of the filefish. I researched the fish online, eventually concluding that it does belong to the filefish family, scientifically referred to as Monacanthidae. What I discovered was a juvenile Japanese Leatherjacket (Paramonacanthus japonicus). It is also commonly referred to as the Hair-finned Filefish, Hair-finned Leatherjacket, Jade Filefish, Jade Leatherjacket, Cryptic Filefish, and the Cryptic Leatherjacket. It can be found between 12 and 56 meters, embracing the floor of the sea. It was quite difficult to film, as many filefish are, because of their paper-thin bodies and shy demeanor. Capturing the right angle in the right moment in the right lighting takes patience and perseverance. Unlike the strikingly vibrant Scribbled Filefish we commonly see in the Gulf of Thailand, the Japanese Leatherback may have gone unnoticed because it camouflages so excellently with the sand upon the ocean floor. Unfortunately, the visibility was poor this day which made it even harder to capture this elusive species. Footage to come!

Fishes Kisses

What I am about to say should come as no surprise....... I love fish. Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessively, compulsively, addicted to my interactions with fish. Aside from oozing with cuteness, fish are evolutionarily fascinating organisms. Being an underwater videographer provides me with the unique situation of diving alone with fish and potentially observing them more naturally than among a large group of divers. I cherish these moments, the only other creature swimming softly beside them, documenting their captivating physicality and behaviors. Video is a powerful tool of knowledge and it is often through underwater footage that scientists are able to truly observe and discover remarkable truths. This is how the scientific world first noticed the complicated symbiosis of the Moray eel and Grouper. Over the past two years, I have seen and interacted with many different fish and have made many different discoveries.

Most recently, I was fortunate enough to document a very curious ritual I have witnessed only once or twice before. Two Parrotfish swim slowly, circling one another, and then come together quickly together in what appears to be a passionate kiss. I left the "happy couple" and returned about thirty minutes later. They were still at it. Love is a many splendid thing! Love lifts us up where we belong! All you need is love!

Oh. So after doing a bit of research, I have discovered that rather than an act of love, I encountered what is most likely a violent struggle over territory. According to "Territorial Behavior of the Striped Parrotfish Scarus Croicensis Bloch (Scaridae)" what I recorded was likely a highly aggressive display between neighboring female Parrotfish who sometimes protect their territories through mouth-to-mouth interactions. This is unusual, as it is generally male fish who protect their territory.

Not unlike space, so much of the ocean remains unknown, unstudied, and undiscovered. When I see a unique behavioral pattern underwater, such as fishes kisses, I return to the office and immediately research what it could mean. Often, finding the answer to a seemingly frequent behavioral pattern I have observed is near impossible, and I realize how rare it is to spend everyday with the same species of fish for almost two years. Perhaps The Film Company is the leading expert of behavioral traits of fish native to the Gulf of Thailand! In the future, I plan to document, research, and blog any interesting behavioral traits to create a database of information for divers who are as curious as myself about the fish we see and interact with everyday.


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