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Home-made video rig for the SOCDC 2013 Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest

Published on 2013-10-29 20:47:56

This is Halloween, pumpkins scream in the dead of night!

Well, with the South Orange County Dive Club, there's no one to hear them scream underwater!

I've never carved a pumpkin in my life, where I come from Halloween has only been celebrated for a few years under the mercantile influence of candy brokers, costume specialty stores and party organizers. So when the SOCDC planned their annual underwater carving contest I knew I would rather be immortalizing the event rather than actually taking part of it.

I wanted to make a short film of the adventure. The problem is that in our waters, with my rig, it would turn out rather green and pale...

A couple of years ago I invested in a video rig, a TopDawg housing and a Canon HD camera. I did not really like it. The shots came out very blue or green because the housing did not have control for manual white balance. The rig was also freaking heavy and I figured out adding strobes would not only cost me an arm and a leg but also make it even more cumbersome. I tried to build a light setup and even went on a night dive to test it! It was still very heavy, but the video turned out not too bad.

That gave me an idea...

I had investigated ways to build a stabilizer for my DSLR topside and had found a lot of reference to DIY projects using PVC pipes. Those go for less than $2 for 10ft, 80c for 90° elbow and 40c for a "T"... That's a cheap building material...

After putting my idea dervied from my original setup on paper, counting my parts and provisioning for some mishap, I ended with the following bill of material: one 3/4" 10ft   PVC pipe, a bag of 10 elbows, 8 "T"s, one PVC pipe cutter and a few small bolts. Less than $20 total. I also salvaged an aluminum bracket and fittings from a cheap strobe pack I bought a couple of years ago at the Long Beach Scuba Show.

The cutter works amazingly well and I realized that the tool the previous owner of my house left in the garage when he moved out and that I have been using to trim my palm trees was actually a pipe cutter too (for bigger pipes though)! I tried to drill holes in the PVC pipes and the alumnium bracket using my hand-held drill to realize it was not going to work. Fortunately my work has a drill press. I'm pretty sure it was not intended to be used for personnal projects but since I'm bringing work at home regularly, I thought it was fair to bring my hobbies at work from time to time...

Anyway, after much drilling and cutting, I ended with a pretty cool setup.

I added the monopod later when one of the SOCDC peeps mentionned that to me and I thought it was going to be awesome to shoot turtles on my upcoming trip to the Grand Cayman! Maybe I can be as steady as Walter Marti!

I shot almost half an hour of underwater video of courageous divers risking their fingers carving pumpkins. The result is posted on YouTube and available here after the rig pictures.



And the Pumpkin Carving Video: 


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