Woe betide any underwater videographer who doesn’t learn how to fly a drone—you’d better include some epic aerial shots in your film if you want to impress your audience. But serious underwater cinematographers now have another piece of kit in their arsenal—an underwater drone in the shape of the Boxfish Luna. Unveiled in mid-2021, this version of Boxfish Research’s namesake product aimed at “natural history and research filmmakers” can be armed with either a Sony a7S III or Sony a1, offering—in the latter case—up to 8K/30p 10-bit 4:2:0 or 4K/120p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording.
But we know what you’re thinking: What can you do with an underwater drone that you can’t just do yourself on scuba? With their new feature-length documentary, All Too Clear, husband-and-wife natural history filmmakers Zach Melnick and Yvonne Drebert of Inspired Planet Productions soon discovered the benefits of using the latest in cinema ROV to tell their story of the Great Lakes ecosystem and the threats it faces from invasive quagga mussels.
“When we first started talking about doing a story about the offshore ecosystem of the Great Lakes, we realized this was a massive challenge,” says Melnick, Inspired Planet Productions’ director and cinematographer. “So how do you show people something that they almost never have any experience with personally unless they’re divers? And even then, most of the area we’re talking about is inaccessible to divers.”
Melnick says they found that there were some consumer devices that were “okay,” but their cameras were “terrible,” and there were a few remotely operated vehicles designed mainly for big expeditions and scientists. Then they came across the Boxfish Luna. “The Boxfish Luna kind of fits in this pretty amazing niche where someone like an independent production company can get one and start exploring waterways and lakes and oceans in a way that before just really hasn’t been possible,” says Drebert, the company’s producer. “So it’s a really exciting time for us as filmmakers.”
Having opted for the Boxfish Luna with Sony a7S III because of its low-light capabilities, Melnick praises the camera’s ability to shoot at more than 300 feet with no extra lights (beyond the drone’s two on-board 8,500-lumen lights), the impressive 4K uncompressed RAW output (which is sent to the surface in real time), and the ability to have full control over camera settings. The filmmakers also loved the Boxfish Luna’s battery life, which allowed them to film for hours (compared to the much more limited time for divers), as well as the significant safety advantages of using a drone.
“Being able to have this freedom to film underwater has completely changed how we think about what we're going to do with our work in the future,” concludes Melnick. “We can get in the middle of a school of fish and be right with them in a way that would be not possible, I don't believe, before this. The sky’s the limit, really.”
Check out the interview in the video below, and head over to the Inspired Planet Productions website to find out more about All Too Clear. Learn about Boxfish Research’s underwater drones at www.boxfish.nz.
Ikelite Housing for Sony ZV-E10
Nauticam M16 USB-C Bulkhead
Canon RF 10–20mm f/4 L IS STM
OM System TG-7
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