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We’ve been using making sailing videos since 2014, and have surpassed 15K subscribers. We’ve had a lot of video and photo equipment come and go. Here’s what we are using currently.
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Main Cameras and Lens
David uses a Panasonic Lumix GH5 camera and a Panasonic 12-35mm native zoom lens for our primary video recording. It records in 4K and shoots photos at 20 MP. The lens and camera pairing allows for dual stabilization, which reduces camera shake and gets us a great quality of filming. Shooting in 4K allows us to crop and run warp stabilizer in post-production while maintaining a better than 1080P quality. I love it because I can get screenshots off of the videos and they are high-resolution stills. Our biggest negative? There are better cameras out there for recording in low lighting, and despite being a mirrorless camera, it’s HEAVY. We have gotten an underwater housing for this camera, but haven’t used it very often yet.
I use a Nikon D750 DSLR for my main camera, which shoots at 24 MP. The Sigma lens I use is fantastic, because at 18-250 mm, it’s a zoom lens and pretty dang good without getting too cumbersome. I call this my walkabout lens.
All the lenses we have also have neutral density filters (ND filters) and polarizing filters. ND filters basically just block light to the lens, allowing you a wider variety of settings to use when it’s really bright out. Polarizing filters are essential for cruisers. Polarizing filters reduce reflections and glare from the water’s surface. David keeps the variable ND filter on his Panasonic all the time, whereas I keep my polarizing filter on my Nikon all the time.
In December we upgraded from older iPhones to Google Pixel 2 cameras. The microphone, like most point and shoot cameras, is terrible. However, the camera is shooting at 12 MP and 96 dpi, and the video shots in 4K. That’s actually amazing. Add in a minimum aperture of f/1.5, and low light photos shoot incredibly well. Here’s an example of a low-light shot taken with my Google Pixel.
I especially like the digital depth of field that the camera can add in. It’s great for portraits and close-up shots, like this one.
Go Pro and Accessories
Thanks to our cluster f* in Ningaloo Reef, we now have a GoPro Hero6 Black for hands-free recording and underwater footage. It’s got a super wide angle lens, so it films great “b-roll footage” shots of Starry Horizons. The Hero 6 has the screen on the back, which is really helpful (our old GoPro 3 didn’t have that). The Hero6 shoots in 4K60, allowing for some pretty bad ass slow-motion underwater shots.
A lot of our early recordings with the GoPro while underwater are incredibly washed out, or saturated with blue. The red filters help bring out the color when it would otherwise be blue saturated. We’ve got the head strap for when we are kayaking and paddleboarding. We also use a clamp for hands-free work, like time-lapse footage while clamped to Starry Horizons’ eyebrow.
Sound quality is always really hard to work with. Cameras simply don’t have good enough audio without an external microphone, which is why we use the Rode external microphone. On a boat, we are dealing with wind noise a lot, which is why we have a “dead cat” – a wind noise reduction cover for the external microphone. For recording voiceovers, the studio microphone and the pop filter are really cheap ways to increase the recording quality. David even sets up a “sound room”.
A lot of bloggers choose to use lapel mikes instead, which is great for talking or narrating, but not as good for overall sound.
Phoenix (Our Drone) and Accessories
When we returned from our 6-week Australian trip, we upgraded to Phoenix II. Phoenix is a DJI Phantom 4 Advanced drone. David flew Phoenix I over 100 flights and 12 hours of fly time. Phoenix I was two years old, and the last holdout on shooting entirely in 4K. The Phantom 4s come with their own travel pack, and just like with our main cameras, we have a set of ND filters. David uses the ND polarizer most frequently. We also have spare batteries, to optimize flight time.
What’s most important about this drone is that it is very easy to learn to fly. There are several sailing channels out there that have very quickly crashed their drones – and most of them weren’t DJI drones. The second most important aspect is that the Phantoms have very large legs for landing and taking off. While we launch from the deck when we aren’t underway, when we are on the move, I hold the drone up away from the deck and mast to launch and retrieve. With the legs, I have a secure handle to grab.
Draco (Our Travel Drone) and Accessories
The DJI Phantoms are fairly large, so for traveling in a car, plane, or hiking, we bought a DJI Mavic Air. This drone is TINY when folded up, and still shoots in lovely 4K. Traveling with a drone can be challenging but very rewarding. We have a small case and the extra leg extensions, plus, of course, ND filters.
We have two tripods we use. The Manfrotto is the one I use to get my night photography shots. It’s incredibly stable, which is critical for getting shots with long exposure. The Joby is a great flexible tripod for hands-free shots, which we often wrap around handrails or posts.
We use Adobe Photoshop for photo editing and Adobe Premiere for video editing. I am just starting to use Adobe Lightroom as well, as Lightroom makes it easier to bulk edit, compress, and save.
Why Shoot in 4K?
If you watch our videos you may notice that we don’t upload our videos in 4K. So why bother filming all of our videos in 4k?
By shooting in 4K, we have more flexibility to zoom in on our shots. This especially helps when we use certain tools in Premiere, for example, Warp Stabilizer. Warp Stabilizer uses zoom and crop to stabilize the video. Here’s a great video on YouTube to demonstrate Warp Stabilizer.
High-Resolution Screen Shots
By shooting in 4K we can get much better resolution stills. When I watch a video from Pheonix II, our DJI Phantom 4, I can pull a still from it that is 3840 x 2160 (8MP) and 120 dpi. It’s not as great as using the camera to snap a 12MP shot, but it’s still pretty dang good.
Check out this series of shots I pulled during a film of me talking to the camera:
Because we are talking naturally to the camera instead of posing, the screenshot pictures come out much more natural than something more orchestrated.
Don’t worry about it. Just start basic, with whatever you have. If you are new to photography, I found Tony Northup’s book, How to Create Stunning Digital Photography, a great starting point. David has learned by watching hundreds of videos on YouTube.
We were sharing an older, crop sensor Nikon DSLR camera when we first started. You have to start somewhere. As you can see, as time has gone on we’ve made a major investment in our gear. We hope you enjoy the photos and videos we produce!