Often DeepPro housing customers will ask me what my settings are when I am recording video using a GoPro housed in a DeepPro Systems domed housing.

I will share my settings that I prefer to use when filming underwater with my Hero4 Black. My selections and reasons for such are personal, done to my liking and style of filmmaking and my post production workflow. And may change over time as I learn more. Take my suggestions as just that, as suggestions. You may want to set your camera differently as you desire to fit your needs.

More important than any of the below settings, is how you film while underwater. A few tips: Get very close to your subject,  about 6 inches to 1 foot away if you can. You will see amazing results. Hold the housing still, as still as you can. Record at least 10 seconds or more of a subject so you have sufficient video to cut when editing.  Did I say hold your camera still? Remember that.

First, I never use color filters. A red filter does not add any light to the image, it only removes colors the opposite of Red., making the mix of colors appear warmer at the expense of losing a f stop or two of exposure. Red filters are only useful when shallow, about below 60 feet or shallower where red wave lengths are still present from the sun. Once deeper, the reds are mostly absent and the Red filter provides no benefit in my opinion. I restore reds to the video by taking video lights with me in the water, even when shallow or deep. I use the brightest lights possible and always attempt to fill in shadows and restore color using the lights. I let the background water go to the blue, much as our eyes see it. This is my style, and may not be yours.

I often adapt and make changes to my settings to the GoPro Hero4 while underwater to match the scene and lighting situation and my artistic desires. That is the beauty of the DeepPro housing. The large easy to use controls allow you to enter the GoPro’s Video Settings menu and modify the settings while underwater. So.. These settings are starting points, and are adapted while I am underwater.

The Hero4 has a PROTUNE setting that I turn ON.. now the video is recorded at the highest bit rate possible at about 60Mbs

Protune ON also allows the ability to configure a “flat” looking color profile, akin to shooting RAW. Filming in a flat color profile gets the most out of the camera’s sensor information.  I like to film in a “flat” low contrast low saturation color profile and then color grade video in post production. It puts me in control of the final product, not letting the camera decide. Color grading is the process of adjusting colors, contrast, saturation, color balance and more in post and can take time to learn.

Therefore I turn Protune On, which allows access to many settings, which I set as follows.

White Balance:  Given that I like to color grade and the control it offers, so I turn on the NATIVE color mode which is a Raw-ish flat color profile.  If I wasn’t doing this Post color adjustment step, then I would fix the WB to 6500.K.

I avoid turning on AUTO white balance because that lets the camera attempt to adjust the WB setting on the fly during a take. You can see the colors shift during a take if WB is set to Auto. I dont like that.  Underwater colors change a lot, and such moving color shifts are nearly impossible to fine tune in Post. I prefer to have the WB setting locked, at either Native or 6500k and then adjust from there in post. But that’s me.

Color Tuning: I turn it to FLAT.  This is another unsaturated color profile ideal for color grading purposes. If you desire to color grade turn this ON. If not then set to GoPro color and you will get the more vivid, high contrast out of the box video look.  If you don’t desire a time consuming Post color grading step, then stick with the GoPro color.

During a dive I often record a few seconds of video of my Color Calibration slate whenever the the scene lighting changes. These few seconds of this slate are needed for post color fine tuning.  The black, gray, and white panels in the slate allow me at Post production color grading to dial in the colors very accurately to my liking using a Waveform monitor in my color grading software.

ISO Limit:  I leave it at 1600. If set any higher, then you may see more image noise in dark scenes as the camera attempts to increse the gain.  The GoPro is not a very good camera in low light; you begin to see image noise in the blacks in low light. Set this iSO limit too high and in low light scenes you may see noise in the blacks.

Sharpness: I set mid scale as I prefer to apply my sharpening in post production and not in the camera. Another process for Post.

Exposure Compensation: I normally leave this mid range. The exception is when filming a dark background with a diver holding a bright light. I may adjust this to darker or lighter on the fly while underwater.  This takes practice to learn if useful or not. When in doubt, set to mid scale.

Spot Meter: This is an important tool and a setting you might need to adjust on the fly to fit the scene. Besides Exposure Compensation this is the only other way to manipulate the exposure while underwater.   If I am filming an average lit scene, then the Spot Meter is set to OFF which means that the camera’s light meter is average the scene across the entire image frame.

If however I have a dark background and a middle area of the frame is more brighter and I want the dark areas to go black and not to overexpose the hightlight then I turn the Spot meter to ON. You must experiment with this to learn how this works and when to have Spot Meter set ON. It will come in useful in some lighting situations. Again, this is when the housing’s controls come in handy underwater.

Auto Low Light: Is used for extremely dark scenes and basically allows the camera to slow the frame rate from a higher setting, it forces a longer shutter speed automatically in an attempt to brighten dark scenes. I often shoot at higher frame rates and when this is ON the the frame rate may automatically change to slower without my knowing. So I leave this setting off.

Video Resolutions: I prefer to film in either 4K or 1080, those are my two preferred choices. Most deliverable content is one or the other.   If you film in 4K remember that now 4 times the image data being compressed into the same 60Mbs data stream than would be filming in 1080.  In other words the image fidelity will be slightly reduced due to higher compression used.  If your end result is always 1080 why not simply use 1080?  It’s up to you.  And test to see if your editing computer can handle working with a highly compressed 4K GoPro file.

Field of View: I use the WIDE most of the time.  After all the GoPro is a wide angle camera and that’s the look that I want. I avoid SUPERVIEW as I do not like the very distorted look of Superview. Some times I switch underwater to NARROW for tighter fish images. The options allowed depend on if you are in 4K or 1080 and the frame rate. Again, the housing controls come in hand for making this change underwater to suite the subject matter.

Frame Rate:  I prefer underwater to film at the highest frame rate allowed. 1080 at 120fps or 60fps. The reason is that in editing I can always play back the video “in real speed” or I can run at slow motion and the higher frame rate capture will look smoother when slowed. Camera shake will look less shaky if you slow your video in post. So.. Recording initially at a higher frame rate gives me options in editing.  The trade off is reduced battery life by a few minutes, and more data storage used. Higher frame rates are used in bright settings. Dark settings I set it to 60 or 30fps.

For Post production, I use Davinci Resolve Lite, a free version to color grade my GoPro video. It’s a powerful program and one of the best. But, it takes an investment in time to learn to use but is well worth it. I also use in post apply to my video a Look Up Table (LUT) called the Ground Control GoPro Protune 709 LUT. It’s free and takes that flat Protune color profile and restores much of the vivid saturation and contrast. Then I adjust from there each shot using the Waveform Monitor. The combination of this LUT and the few seconds of video of my black, gray, white color slate allows me to fine tune my colors in post. Learning how to fine adjust colors in post using Resolve and a Waveform monitor is a whole another lesson….