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Dive Photo Guide


Editing Tips for Underwater Videographers Using GoPro
By Joel & Jennifer Penner, March 18, 2016 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

You’ve captured all of your epic dive trip footage using your GoPro. There are hours and hours of wide-angle, macro and topside footage all sitting on your hard drive. Now what? How do you make all of your hard work shine? The last thing you want to do is show unedited clips from your camera. Instead, make a finished product that you can be proud of and looks stunning! Here are some editing tips that will help you make a video your family and friends will love.


Choosing an Editing Program

Making a decision about which video editor to use can be difficult. For most people, it comes down to price and how serious you are about being a videographer.

GoPro Studio is free and made specifically for GoPro footage

The brand new GoPro Desktop App helps you organize your content

GoPro App & GoPro Studio

GoPro has just released the GoPro App for Desktop, which helps you offload your GoPro content into an organized viewer. Then, once you’ve made your selections, you can edit and export using GoPro Studio (included in the app download).

Pros of GoPro Studio

  • Free and made specifically for GoPro
  • Works on Mac and PC computers
  • Features an auto import feature from your memory card directly to the GoPro Desktop App
  • The basic viewer allows you to visually see all of your GoPro clips. It’s not quite a full-fledged library, but great for beginning video editors
  • Pre-built drag-and-drop templates allow you to easily get a project completed

Cons of GoPro Studio

  • All footage must be converted to Cineform before you can edit it (see below)
  • Limited editor with a single video timeline
  • No Photoshop support for titles

The Cineform codec is a very high-quality professional codec. When the footage is recorded on your camera, it is in a compressed MP4 file. Before GoPro Studio can edit the footage, it must convert the video to the Cineform codec. The downside of this is that you now have two files on your hard drive. Let’s say if you shot a one-minute clip of 1080p footage with your GoPro; you will have the first MP4 file that is ~500MB in size, and the second file in the Cineform codec will be almost 2GB in size!

Apple Final Cut Pro X is a full-featured video editing software

Adobe Premiere Pro, also a full-featured video editing software, has a color correction user interface similar to Adobe Lightroom

Apple Final Cut Pro X & Adobe Premiere Pro CC (Creative Cloud)

If you think you’re ready to have more control over your footage, apply more accurate color adjustments, and have a more professional software to work with, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro might be a better choice for you. Both of these applications also allow you to directly import and edit footage without transcoding—which we like because it’s faster. But the downside to this workflow is that older (slower) computers may have a difficult time playing back video previews in real time.

Pros of Premiere Pro

  • Amazing Lumetri Color Tools that look and work like Adobe Lightroom, which many of us underwater photographers are very comfortable with. The color tools alone are probably the best thing about Premiere Pro and make it a worthwhile choice for video editing
  • More traditional NLE (nonlinear editor/editing)
  • Mercury Playback Engine allows you to play back 4K GoPro video files in real time within Premiere Pro without transcoding

Pros of Final Cut Pro X

  • Although not free, it’s a one time purchase of $299.99
  • Optional transcoding
  • Full-featured, professional editing environment
  • If you’re new to NLE (nonlinear editor/editing), you may prefer the dynamic editing experience of the magnetic timeline

Cons of Premiere Pro

  • Price isn’t a one-time expense; however, this can be a benefit depending on how you look at it. It’s only available through Creative Cloud and the cheapest option is the “Single App License” of $19.99 per month
  • Although it’s affordable, it does add up and gets close to the price of Final Cut Pro in just over the first year

Cons of Final Cut Pro

  • Mac only
  • Color tools are limited for underwater use: no white balance color picker, no color temperature sliders, just their Color Board. It’s very powerful, but takes getting used to, and we find it hard work
  • Learning curve can be steep for some people, as some of the tools you might be looking for are hidden by default


Tell a Story

If possible, plan out your story before you go on your trip—even if it’s just “I want to show the beauty of the underwater world set to music.” Think about the types of shots you want, and plan for how you can get the shots to tell your story. If you have a focused story, like “I want to tell a story about the wrecks of Hawaii,” then more planning will be involved. Get as granular as possible in the types of shots you’d like to capture and how those shots will portray the story you’re trying to tell.

Below is a short video shot in Bonaire. It’s a broad story about how beautiful Bonaire is and some of the types of things you’ll see while diving. There’s also some footage shot with the GoPro while touring around the island.

Add Some Music

Don’t forget to add some music. Having a soundtrack can really help enhance your video and provide additional interest. You see a lot of people using music from their favorite artists and bands, but the reality is that without written permission, you legally shouldn’t use it. There are many great resources online where you can either download music tracks for free or for nominal licensing fees. Here are some good resources for getting the perfect music track:

  • Creative Commons allows many tracks to be used in your video project (free)
  • Vimeo Music is another good resource (some free, some paid)
  • iStockPhoto Music is designed for commercial use. There are many great sounding tracks available and there are different licensing options/pricing based on planned use

Use the Best of the Best

No one wants to see his/her hard-fought underwater imaging captures on the cutting-room floor. But most people’s attention spans are fairly short. You might have a bunch of amazing footage from different angles, and even the same awesome subjects from different days. Do your best to objectively choose which clips are the most engaging and compelling, and cut it down to only the best of the best.

Top: Before color-correction, the water has a cyan hue. Bottom: After color-correction, with less cyan hued water

Basics of Color Correction

In all three video editors that we talked about above, there are color-correction tools. Why do we care about color correction? Well, sometimes you might have shot your video with the wrong filter on, or the GoPro poorly white balanced, or you were very close to your subject and your lights were too warm in the footage. Capturing amazing footage doesn’t always happen perfectly on every dive. Being able to make quick color adjustments “in post” can really help put a polish on your final project.

GoPro Studio Color Tools

In GoPro Studio, there’s a white balance picker as well as Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Contrast, Saturation and Sharpening controls.

GoPro Studio has basic color-correction editing tools perfect for those getting started, or those who don’t wish to spend a lot of time editing video

Apple Final Cut Pro X Color Tools

Final Cut Pro X’s Color Board is very powerful, but isn’t immediately intuitive for manually correcting white balance. You have one Global ball and a ball for Shadows, Midtones and Highlights, which you can move left or right to pick your color, and then up or down to increase or decrease the amount of that hue. We prefer to have a single adjustment slider for Temperature and Tint.

Color-correction tools in Apple Final Cut Pro X are powerful but don’t feel as easy to use for underwater color correction requirements

Adobe Premiere Pro Color Tools

Adobe has outdone themselves with the addition of Lumetri Color. You now have sliders very similar to the develop module in Adobe Lightroom. Additionally, for underwater videographers, we love the Hue Curves.

Underwater videographers who are serious about video editing will gravitate toward Adobe Premiere Pro for its professional and very powerful Lumetri Color Tools

Lumetri Color RGB Curves and Hue Saturation Curve Panel


Keep It Short, Sweet and to the Beat

A director’s cut can be cool sometimes, but most people only have an attention span of two or three minutes when watching a video online. Think about your audience and remember to be a good editor! Additionally, when you pick a music track, think about song selection that supports the pace, movement, and energy of the video clips you’ve selected. Setting each clip to transition to the beat will be more impactful and come across as a much more professional movie.

Share for a Purpose

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
People protect what they love.

— Jacques Cousteau

Once you’ve fallen in love with the ocean, you’ll immediately want to protect it and conserve it for our future generations to experience and enjoy. Sharing your underwater images with family and friends, especially those that are not yet ocean lovers, is the best way to communicate that our oceans and its inhabitants are fragile and need our care. Social media outlets are an effective way of sharing your experiences. Millennials are practically born posting content to their favorite channels. For those of us a bit older and less social media savvy, just pick one or two channels to start posting to. Share your message, and share often!

About the Authors: Joel and Jennifer Penner are avid scuba divers and award-winning underwater image-makers. Their images have been published in many magazines, such as Scuba Diving, Sport Diver, Underwater Journal and Scuba Diver. Joel and Jennifer are frequent presenters at scuba industry trade shows, and they are also staff at the annual Digital Shootout and Monterey Shootout events. When the ocean is not their office, they run a multimedia company called Newmediasoup, specializing in design and development for the Web.

When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.



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