Batee Tolong. Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia, March 2010.

HD underwater, how beautiful is that

  Indonesia: Pulau Weh [Sumatra] - March 2010

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

I had to play a bit with the video mode of Canon 7D under water.

The video

I did this at Batee Tokong, one of the dive sites accessible from Pulau Weh. And the image quality... wow!!!! It's something else than what I could get with my little compact from before.

So dive without getting wet, with this underwater mini-film. In HD (high definition), please.

Under water

Well, to tell the truth, I had a little trouble. Underwater, first. There is this damn white balance to do.

Absorption of colors under water. (Source: mini-course: underwater, you lose the colours. They are absorbed one by one, starting with the red, from 5 meters, then the orange at 10 meters, the yellow at 20 meters, etc..

The more you go down, the more everything turns blue ...

(The diagram on the right comes from the site

Small parenthesis: I will always remember my astonishment as a novice, a few years ago, when, having scratched my finger on the coral, I saw a dark green liquid coming out of the small cut on my skin... Very strange.

I thought, at the time, that I had to sting myself to something unclear, which had left me a venom or a sticky deposit on the wound. It was not painful, so I did not worry more than that. It was only once on the surface that I understood.

Underwater, the bright red of the blood turns... green!


So, in a sub picture, you have to tell the digital camera which shade of "blue" underwater is equivalent to white, so that it readjusts everything accordingly and restores the colours that have disappeared.

During this dive at Batee Tokong, I make a picture of the sand on the bottom. That's what I'm doing. It has a bluish gray shade, but it's supposed to be what roughly corresponds to white underwater. The images that I will take afterwards, having this "blue-grey" as a white marker, will thus regain their reds and yellows. Long live the magic of digital!

Except that... When the camera goes back to standby, I have to go back in the multiple pictures taken in the meantime to tell it again which picture is chosen for the white balance when I want to switch back to video. (Non-divers and non-photographers friends, are you still following?)

I only realize that once under water, of course. I did not take the time to check, dry, how to record this kind of setting ...


That's how many scenes I can miss... You have to react quickly, trigger it right away. I'm still angry that I let the rippling swim of a beautiful leopard eel pass right under my nose. By the time I reactivated my settings, it was gone!

In the future, I'll have to set the camera to always memorize the white balance for the video. Or, I may opt for an orange filter (good old technique before the digital) to place quickly in front of the lens when needed. That those who already have experience in video sub do not hesitate to give me their advice.

Other than that, Batee Tokongit's a bit of Murene City... it's everywhere. (And not a single one on my video, grrr...) 😡

A nice moray, who agreed to show me his teeth for the photo ... (Pulau Weh, Gapang Beach).

On the computer

Well, it's not all about making pretty cool pictures in super definition. After, you have to find the right settings on the computer to encode them properly, just to have an equivalent rendering for the broadcast on the internet.

I chose HD mode 1280 × 720 on the 7D. Once my small sequences stored on the computer, then imported and mounted on Final Cut Express, comes the delicate moment of export. As long as I was in low definition with the videos of my little compact, it was not too much trouble. In most settings to choose, the rendering was consistent with the original.

Now, for HD, it's more complicated. I've been doing a lot of tests over the last few days to find the right compromise between image quality and file size. At first glance, an MP4 export, with the H264 codec, bitrate set to 5120 Kbs or 6144 Kbs, original frequency, original size, it does it pretty much... (Non-geeks and non-videographers friends, you still follow?).

Afterwards, you have to balance all that on the web. To simplify my life, I use the platform Vimeo, which I find much superior to Youtube and DailyMotion, although these last two also offer HD now.

Only, Vimeo encodes and compresses again my file, already encoded and compressed by my little hands. Result: you start to distinguish the pixels in the passages where the blue dominates and you lose fluidity. In short, not easy to restore, online, the beautiful original image.

Good. It's not too bad, either, huh. It's just for a webcast, to share my bubbles with you... (But what a job!)


  Indonesia: Pulau Weh [Sumatra] - March 2010

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  1. just great your videos ..., I'll end up getting into it too 😉

    For your white balance, you can not opt for a temperature of color and freeze it during your dive?

  2. I'm your blog for a few weeks and I fell in love immediately ...

    For the white balance, even if it's not worth a saved setting, I saw divers with a white plastic plate on their wrists. That way you always have a white surface to make your balance ...

  3. Superb this video ! Honestly it looks great. And thank you for all these technical explanations, very useful for me who is discovering this world of underwater photography... I had realized that underwater everything became blue, but I had not pushed the reflection much further 😉

    If you shoot in raw, you could free yourself from the white balance for the photo? I have never done so far, but I think it can be useful in this case. Or else set the temperature manually, as suggested by a reader above.

    What is ultimately strange is that the photos / video do not really represent what you saw, but rather the "real" colors?

  4. An abundance of fish and colors that explode with this myriad of goldfish ... 💡 enough to make you want to go dip your fins and bubble in the Indonesian waters!!! We ask for more!!! 8)

  5. Hello,
    videos are good, but they make you want to dive even more! Bravo for the images, for the editing... and as in a Fingers commercial, just a small remark, couldn't we have a little bit longer? 😈
    And thanks for the technical explanations, I'm going to go back and look at my own little APN and see if I too, just in photos, can adjust the white balance. 😕

  6. @PhilippeB: Yes, you should put yourself in it. But it's like the photo, once we start, we let ourselves snap!
    Of course, I could try to play on the adjustment of the color temperature, but the problem is that on the same dive, we do not stay all the time at the same depth, and therefore, the light varies: we do not It does not have the same absorption of colors at 5 m or at 20 m ... The white balance, we can readjust it by doing it again each time we change depth. However, it is obvious to zap on the right color temperature, I think, every time we go back a few meters. And then, the rendering is not as fair as with a white balance.

    @ Mariedu13: Thank you!

    @Fabien: Yes, absolutely: the tip of white plastic that you keep with yourself (tablet or other) is very convenient to redo its white balance during the dive (because we change regularly depth, and therefore absorption of colors, in short, see my word to PhilippeB above). Otherwise, the gray bottles we have on our backs work well too. There, I had nothing on hand (but I have what it takes for the next ploufs). The sand of light color, it works well too, in order to stay then at about the same depth.

    @Richard: Merki, merki!

    @Laurent: Try again ... Sometimes Vimeo is on the road, but in general it does not last long.

    @Thib: Oh, there, no, for photos, I do not shoot (still) in Raw ... I never have time to take care of the post-treatment. Too much work ... For my practice of photography, JPEGs are enough for now.
    Same, for video, I like to spare me the post-processing, so the white balance or the orange filter at the time of registration are good to have colors about right from the start.
    Finally, yes, the colors of my video are "better" than what we actually see under water: for the eye, the reds are rather brown-green in the 20 meters, but become warmer, more orange towards 5-8 meters ... That said, as long as the vision is good and the sunlight is good, we have almost bright colors in the small depths near the surface.
    Finally, I use the white balance only for video, but I should do it for background photos without flash. However, as soon as you use the flash, it restores the colors.
    Since you start diving, I strongly advise you to buy a small waterproof lamp. You'll see, it's fascinating to discover the richness of the colors in the beam of light that you walk on the dark parts of the reef.

    @Laurence: Thank you !!! No, I was surprised, very few slugs, and nothing new, at least for me, around Pulau Weh. Surprising.

    @auxBulles: Oh, there, yes ... Indonesian waters, there is nothing better! Me too, I want more (but it will still have to wait a little, until the next vacation).

    @Malene: Thanks thanks ! I am deliberately short, not more than a minute or two, in general, because beyond that, it may eat the non-divers. And then, on the internet, people are rarely taped on videos that exceed 1 minute 30 ...
    On my compact camera before, there was the white balance, which I used very little, in fact, because I was often disappointed: the rendering was often a little ugly, with odd colors. But I tell myself that I should have taken the time to do it more often for my videos sub at the time. It's just a challenge to do and do again during a dive. And when the turtle and the shark arise, you do not always have the time ... so you film without having done it, and then, here it is, it's still nice to look after, even if it's very blue.

  7. Wow, the class! The dream of having a camera like yours 😉 Anyway it really makes you want to bubble. I love it and I agree... We want more. Come back soon!

  8. @Charly: I love my 7D. I love him, I cherish him. I want to go under water with him ... Oh, there, I too want others !!! I can not wait for the vacation…
    @PBGalerie: Many thanks !

  9. Hello,

    Beautiful blog!

    I was looking for information about Koh-Lipe and I came across some of my research on the net ... on your article about it ( ! 😉

    Good ... my 2 cent as we say: new firmware allows to fix a white balance problem in burst mode. Unfortunately, I think it will not solve your problem in video mode at all. 😕

    Gôm 🙂

  10. @ GOM: Thank you! You will find several other articles on Koh-Lipe in the section devoted to this trip to Thailand in February 2009:

    In fact, I do not really have a "white balance problem" in video, it is doing well, the white balance. It's just that I have to find a way to keep it active or recover it quickly without having to go back into the menus. I have to study it more closely, there must be way to memorize the setting, anyway ... And I'll see if I have to update or not my firmware (for the uninitiated: the "firmware", c is the software inside the digital box, which displays the menus, adjusts the settings and all and everything). Thank you for the link !

  11. @V: Yes, I already knew this "gadget", which had done quite a lot to dive on the dive sites, such as ... It's probably very good to have fun snorkeling (palms-mask-snorkel), to make images nice family, but not really to make quality video underwater. This camera mask is waterproof only up to 5 meters.

  12. @ GOM: I finally managed by pre-recording settings, including the white balance for the video, including one of three possible shortcuts on the wheel. But when I want to change the white balance, it becomes tedious ...
    That said, yes, I would have to update the firmware anyway. Thank you for the link !