text and video by Hergen Spalink
The combination of the Panasonic GX8 housed in the Nauticam NA-GX8 and equipped with both the WWL-1 wide angle converter and CMC macro converter makes for a versatile underwater 4K video rig. To demonstrate the flexibility of the system we took it along on one of our recent Komodo trips.
The video was shot at 4K 30fps and edited in Final Cut Pro X. Camera was shot in manual exposure with the majority at ISO 400 and 1/60 sec shutter speed.
Getting good color in underwater video has always been one of the major challenges. With cameras capable of shooting RAW video such as the Arri Alexa or one of the RED lineup a fair amount of good color correction be completed in post production. Newer, high-end cameras such as the Canon 1DXMKII can capture broadcast quality color reproduction onboard, others can use an outside recorder such as an Atmos Shogun. Most cameras, however, shoot fairly compressed 4K with little information remaining for good clean post production necessitating careful attention to capturing the scene correctly in camera. The custom white balance controls on the Panasonic GX-8 are very user friendly and most users will tend towards shooting natural light with a Magic Filter or similar "red" filter and a custom white balance. For this trial I decided to try something a little different.
In attempt to ensure a nice blue background despite a wide range of water conditions in Komodo I employed the use of a Magic Filter combined with custom white balance and LED video lights. I would set the white balance in the 2-3000K range and place a threaded Magic Filter on the 14-42mm mm (28-84mm Full Frame equivalent) lens. The white balance would lend the entire scene a very cool (blue) cast - setting the background. The Magic Filter would do very little to the background (what I wanted) but would add red back to any artificial light cast onto the foreground (which would otherwise appear very cool due to the white balance setting), in this case by a set of high CRI (96) Keldan Luna 8 LED video lights.
The result is a blue background that does not go magenta near the surface (a common side effect of shooting magic filters in natural light with manual white balance) and beautiful rich colors on the foreground subjects. The large beam angle, even pattern, and high-CRI rating of the Keldan lights made for a gentle, natural looking blending of the mid-ground into the background while still ensuring the vivid colors of the foreground subjects stand out.
In addition to an incredibly wide field of view at the low focal length range (14mm), The WWL-1 has truly amazing zoom-through capabilities when used at higher focal length (42mm). Between using the WWL-1 with the lens at full zoom to capture small to large macro subjects and the CMC for super-macro, as well as removing both wet-lenses and just shooting through the flat port the GX-8 in the NA-GX8 housing is able to capture just about every subject you would encounter. Instead of shooting only macro or wide for the entire dive we could change between scenes.