Standard Operating Procedures
In order to avoid costly or poor production quality mistakes it is a very good idea to establish
a set of Standard Operating Procedures when shooting video underwater.
Keep all of your manuals in a waterproof zip lock bag so that they are available to you while on
location if required. Transport your equipment in a sturdy carrying case that will protect your equipment. Be
advised that you will likely require extra time to go through airport security since the inspectors generally
want to have a closer look at your gear. The airlines have strict baggage allowances these days so be
prepared for overweight baggage charges as well.
Whenever possible load the camera into the housing in a dry, air-conditioned environment.
Take your time! I have long ago lost count of the number of flooded housings that I have seen due to
somebody rushing to put their equipment together. Grease your O-rings as required, secure the housing
latches, turn the housing on and check that all controls are operating correctly. Keep a lens cover
over your lens to protect it from scratches when not in use. It is a good idea to have twice as many
batteries as you require for the operation of your equipment. That way you can always have a fully
charged battery available. I learned the hard way to determine how much battery and how much film you
have available to you for a dive. Murphy’s Law dictates that you will either run out of film or have
the battery die just as you are about to get the shot that will make you famous.
Never jump into the water with your housing. After your entry come back to the boat and
have somebody hand the housing to you. Over time I have established a practice that I go through every time I
enter the water. First, I turn the housing on and check the moisture indicator and then inspect the
housing to ensure that there are no bubbles coming from it since this would indicate water getting inside.
Then I attach the housing to my BCD with a retractable cord. If the lens cover is still in place I remove it
and store it in a BCD pocket. Next I whisk my hand in front of the lens to remove any bubbles that might be
stuck on the port. Then I ensure that the red filter is engaged and white balance the camera using
Amphibico’s white balance slate. All of this takes about the same amount of time that is required for the
descent. Once at depth I white balance the camera again.
Generally, just before taking a shot I will adjust white balance due to changing depth or
light conditions and also periodically ensure that the lens has not accumulated bubbles from other divers’
exhaust. A few years ago I was filming a couple of reef sharks and was able to get some incredible close-ups.
When I reviewed the footage later I realized that I had been recording while swimming to get into position
and then hit standby when I had intended to record the shot. Since it can take a few seconds for
the housing to engage record or standby check to make sure that you are recording when you think you are
recording. In all the excitement, my fingers had become out of sync with the housing
Always check your dive gauges after shooting a sequence to ensure
that you are still within depth or no decompression limits. It is quite easy to become so absorbed in
getting the shot that you may forget basic dive safety protocols.