Hocus Pocus, Kodak High Def Underwater Video Camera Still in Focus

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The World’s Worst Underwater Magician
Hocus Pocus, Kodak High Def Underwater Video Camera Still in Focus

Story filed with Diver Magazine June 8, 2010
By Stephen Weir

The Pixel Wars are over, picture resolution can’t get any higher. Now the race to produce pocket sized high definition waterproof video cameras is on. One of the first out of the box is the Kodak PlaySport.
In April the venerable film manufacturing company began selling in Canada and the US, a High Def video camera that looks like a cell phone, works underwater without a housing and easily links in to You Tube and Facebook.
“It is brand new and just became available to consumers,” explained Kodak’s PR console, Carla McFarlane.” Major retailers are just receiving their inventory now since the product is so new (but soon it should be available everywhere). It is available in purple, blue and black.”
According to Kodak their PlaySport is built for people who enjoy the outdoors. It is waterproof to 3-metres without a housing. Because people will be in motion when taping with it, the camera has built-in image stabilization, which reduces shaking and blurry footage.
“The PlaySport is made in China. How much does it retail for in Canada? $159.95.” explained McFarlane. “The PlaySport is great for water activities like snorkelling, a day at the beach, swimming in the pool, and shallow diving. It is also great for snow sports like snowboarding and skiing.”
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Diver Magazine tested the camera in a Toronto swimming pool with members of the Etobicoke Underwater Club (EUC) last month. The EUC, one of Ontario’s longest running scuba clubs, has for years had the use of a public pool one evening a week to teach scuba lessons to new club members.
What can you film underwater in a 4-metre deep pool? Not much. We had to come up with a shooting script that didn’t include showing scuba neophytes, could be shot in the deep-end and wouldn’t involve props that could damage the public pool.
Armed with a $20 budget and the assistance of club executive Marianne Collins and PADI Canada’s Dave Noble, the PlaySport was used to produce a video called the “World’s Worst Underwater Magician.”
Marianne Collins was the sub-surface Houdini and Dave Noble her faithful assistant. Using a wand, a magic flowerpot and a few bubbly incantations, Collins was able to make a bouquet of flowers suddenly grow at the bottom of the swimming pool.
The PlaySport filmed the breathtaking trick without interruption. The cameraman (me!) held the mini high-definition camera in one hand while directing the action with the other. I was neutrally buoyant and as a result I drifted up, down and sideways as I waved at my volunteer actors. The built-in stabilization programme, worked well, covering up my unscripted underwater movement.
The camera’s backside has a 4.25 cm x 3.25 cm playback LCD display, which combined with the magnification of the diver’s mask, made it easy to see while filming. PlaySport has five control buttons, but underwater there is just one that you need to tape – it starts and stops the camera and zooms its 5.54 mm lens in and out of the action. This control button is easy to work on the bottom of the pool.
There was a 4GB memory card in the camera, enough to film for almost 90-minutes. The You Tube movie runs for less than 2-minutes. The trick itself took just 20-seconds, so, after making magic, Collins and Noble were taped playing with some of the rubber fish that the Etobicoke Underwater Club uses for sea critter recognition. After about 10-minutes of playing for the camera, they (literally) drifted away from the underwater set and onto the pool deck and the taping ended.
The day after the filming of the World’s Worst Underwater Magician, the raw footage was easily transferred to a computer and within an hour my son, Andrew, had created a YouTube video. (The camera also comes with built-in editing software). Hocus Pocus. Out of Focus. To date the Diver Magazine You Tube video has been seen by close to 500 unsuspecting divers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W83vzlzMxYA)
The camera performed well … in a pool. In a “real” body of water, the PlaySport has a huge limitation; you can’t take it very deep.
The camera has a 1-year limited warranty. However, if a diver takes it below 10 ft or (3.1 metres) that warranty, according to the company spokesperson, will not apply. Diver Magazine has taken the camera below the 3-metre mark and it continues to function, but, again according to McFarlane, “PlaySport isn't pressurized to function properly beyond the 10ft depth level.” Kodak isn’t saying if it is working on the next generation of PlaySport that can be taken deeper.
The camera is fun to use. Looks great. It is perfect for the never-dry environment of a dive boat. And you need never have to worry about being rained on, dropping it in the snow or magically getting pushed into a Toronto pool.
CUTLINE: Top. Stock footage shot of the PlaySport. Note that there is functioning PlaySport in the fish bowl.
Left: Frame grab from the video - The World's Worst Underwater Magician - taken with the Kodak PlaySport. Taken by Stephen Weir.

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