Richard Brooks- Underwater cameraman: “I get a lot of e-mails asking me how to become a professional underwater cameraman, or how to use a professional underwater camera or even how I’ve got to where I am with my underwater cameraman career. So I thought I’d put together a short blog to help all those aspiring shooters.”
Unfortunately there is no one course or definite route. The more successful underwater camera operators you meet the more varied the stories you’ll get. For the sake of this, here are some recurring similarities.
Most of it may seem like common sense but hopefully my contribution offers you some insight.
If any readers have ideas that they can offer, things that I haven’t encountered or mentioned it would be great to hear from you. Please leave a comment at the bottom to help every aspiring shooter out there.
I’ve been a Media Producer in various guises in Palau for 10 years now, initially as an underwater cameraman with a little bit of topside work thrown in, then diversifying into Time-lapse, run n’ gun, aerials (drone and aircraft), interviews etc.
Palau has changed a lot in those 10 years and this has made me change with it.
Here are 10 things (actually 11) I’ve learned about Media Production in that time:
So many cameras
Now more than ever people have cameras, as a dedicated cameraman I’m being squeezed by the ready availability of cameras. Everyone over the age of 5 seems to have one (gross over generalization, I know). So now more than ever I have to be inventive with my imaging, flexibility and the old cliche of thinking outside the box are more important than ever before. Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, think about a sequence or image you want to acquire, no matter how crazy or impossible it first appears to be, then work out how to do it. Dare to be different.
Drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are one of the biggest growth industries of the early 21st Century. Their rise has been stratospheric. Development of flight, navigation, imaging, and automation systems are continuous. Manufacturers are bringing out new models that take huge leaps forward every 6 months. That is why we moved so fast to start aerial drone filming in Palau.
I started flying drones about two years ago with a 450 class model and was commissioned almost immediately for work. Since then I’ve upgraded to an Inspire 1 for it’s longer flight times, image quality and stability in wind. Lightning Strike Media now provides a range of aerial imaging services and flies almost daily.
The technology is so innovative it has opened up a range of opportunities in Palau:
As international media productions go, the first Survivor Palau was big. It needed location scouts, fixer services, permits, talent, crew, camera assets, camera rentals, customs clearence, vehicles and accommodations. All things the production team needed to know about BEFORE they got off the plane for the production shoot.
Even small scale productions need these things so it’s important to not underestimate the value of a local fixer.
This is where having an experienced and well connected local crew can save you time and money. We can ensure you get what you need to deliver your project on budget and on time.
Remove the stress of production
A location shoot doesn’t have to be stressful. It shouldn’t be stressful with research and finding the right guys on the ground to get things done for you. If things for whatever reason don’t pan out, and sometimes no amount of research will stop it, it’s good to have people there that are focused and can still deliver.
Pooling your resources is important. Having what you need a phone call away is something that only a well connected and experienced fixer can provide. After all, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. No amount of years filming will enable you to get an interview with the President at short notice or find you the village elder that can deliver the story clinching quotes.
Get the best fixer services with the Lightning Strike Team in Palau
Lightning Strike Media Productions has at it’s disposal an accumilation of decades of media production, journalism and living in Palau experience. If you are a Producer, DP, camaraman or one man production unit, you should let us help you realise your production goals. We work closely with the Government and NGOs on a variety of projects so have great contacts and experience where it matters. No other company can provide the same level of fixer services in Palau. See this post for more information, or see out webpage here.
Our clients have included Discovery Channel, ABC Australia, CNN, Arte, ZDF, Al Jazeera, Economist magazine and the BBC along with numerous ad agencies and independant producers.
Should you find yourself in the Bohol/Panglau region of the Philippines and you’re a diver, there is a place I can thoroughly recommend. Even if you’re not a diver, this place could possibly persuade you to be one.
Every dive shop in the area offers trips there, because it is so good, it’s unavoidable in fact I would say. As soon as the weather is good enough they said, “we’ll go”.
So, with a recommendation like that and a shop like Philippine Fun Divers providing me with good rental gear, a great boat taking me there and expert guides I couldn’t really refuse.
Good thing I didn’t, because even though the weather was still a bit….”marginal” the diving was anything but that.
Once the Banka boat had approached the low lying sand fringed island, myself and the 2 other divers got geared up, had a briefing from our DM Greg and we got in. Almost immediately I’m seeing stuff I’d not seen before or multitudes of critters I see rarely. One of my favorites is the little Tobies or Pufferfish.
Palau’s northernmost island Ngurangel and it’s southernmost Helen Reef are separated by little over 400 miles of island peppered ocean but are remarkably similar. Both are low lying sandy features surrounded by huge atoll reefs which makes them a haven for both marine and bird life. Their isolation is what makes them so special.
Helen reef is a long thin spit of land, sparsely vegetated. It has a resident population of 4 rangers, 3 dogs and about 5000 sea birds. The rangers have their own accommodations and keep an eye out for illegal fishing activities. It lies closer to Indonesia than it does Palau’s capital Koror.