Jacques Star is a freelance director of photography with over 15 years of professional experience ranging from electronic news gathering and electronic field production, broadcast, documentary, commercial and corporate, travel, sports and underwater shooting. In addition to videography, he also directs and edits content. His work has been seen on NBC, CBS, FOX, Discovery Channel, History Channel, BBC and PBS, among others.
Jacques latest adventure took him to Guadalupe Island, Mexico where he went diving with great white sharks and took his trusty 4K enabled Sony cameras, the handheld PXW-X70 and digital Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV along for the ride.
Called Guadalupe Great White Sharks, Jacques’ YouTube Vlog documents his time with the predatory fish during a charter trip to benefit the Historical Diving Society. Jacques is also creating a 4-minute documentary short about white shark conservation in Guadalupe for the Our World Underwater film festival. Additionally, he was able to gather footage for other projects, including for a profile piece on recent Women’s Diving Hall of Fame inductee Nancy McGee.
On this excursion, Jacques had the good fortune of being joined by legendary underwater adventure photographer Ernie Brooks and for three days, the two shooters had the opportunity to dive with, photograph and learn about the beautiful species in their natural habitat. Jacques described this breath-taking opportunity as “awe-inspiring” and commented that it gave him a “much deeper respect for sharks.”
Jacques used his upgraded X70 for video including 4K capture in the surface shark cages, while the RX100 IV generated stills and video, residing on the camera table on deck of the boat and underwater in a housing. As far as choosing Sony cameras to accompany him on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Jacques said, “My Sony cameras are small, lightweight and very portable, which is why they are frequent companions on my travel and SCUBA diving shoots.” The size is certainly an advantage as he went on to explain, “Sometimes, it becomes outrageously expensive or a huge headache to obtain film permits at certain locations. The X70 allows you to go as a tourist, and not attract much attention. We did this when filming Into the Drink, a dive/travel show which used a couple of Sony HDV cameras, and an underwater housing. Most of it fit into our carry-ons and backpacks. The X70 is even smaller and more compact. It is pretty amazing for a 4K camera.”
Sony’s cameras offer a number of features ideal for capturing content on-the-go in a range of unpredictable environments. Jacques favors “the XLR inputs, Zeiss lens, and 4K resolution.” Expanding on his use of 4K, Jacques explained he uses the extra resolution to reframe shots in post for his 1080p masters. Even though the final piece is delivered in 1080, Jacques asserts “the scaled down images show more detail and give me room to re-frame shot in post, if need be. 4K offers enhanced creative options.”
He also found the ND filter worked well and the camera was very capable in low-light for a 1-inch sensor, which also afforded a shallow depth of field he couldn’t achieve with ½ inch and 1/3 inch chip cameras.
Another element he appreciates is the layout and structure of the cameras saying “the buttons in manual mode are easy to find and use. The Sony cameras also have good auto features when the shooting situation calls for it. In addition, the auto tracing white balance is pretty impressive. While it’s always best to get a good white balance, there are times when I follow someone from the inside of the boat, with its tungsten lighting, up the stairs and outside into the daylight and this feature is extremely handy.”
Speaking of his time diving in Guadalupe, Jacques recounted incidents where the Sony X70 really proved itself. “There were a couple of times when I was prepping my dive gear, and a great white shark unexpectedly came up to the surface cage to inspect the bait. The X70 was quick on the draw, I could just pick it up, quickly turn it on and start shooting without missing a beat – or a critical moment.”
Another challenge of shooting on a boat and in the ocean is the camera’s exposure to the elements. “The RX100 IV lived on the camera table, outside on the deck of a dive boat, so it was constantly exposed to moisture, salty air, and wet divers, and continued to work flawlessly,” he recalled. “It also worked well in its Ikelite underwater housing, which had intuitively engineered controls that were easy to work and gave me full control of the functions. The housing was dependable, well-designed and streamlined.”
Jacques used Sony’s XAVC codec for content shot on the X70. Explaining the post-production process he said, “The XAVC footage imported natively into Adobe Premiere, as did the video clips from the RX100 IV. The 4K footage looks very sharp for this price range of camera and its 8-bit codec. There is some grain and noise in low-light situations, but this is normal for this size sensor and for 8-bit. Overall, the image quality is very good. I shoot a lot with 2/3 and Super 35 broadcast cameras, and comparatively, the quality of the 1-inch sensor holds up. I have also found the 4:2:2 footage when the camera is in 1080p mode to be useful.”
On the whole, Jacques considered the experience a success. “We were blessed with plenty of sharks, good visibility and excellent diving,” he concluded. “It was a privilege and an honor to be able to dive with legends in the SCUBA diving world. We were able to contribute to shark research, aid in conservation efforts, and explore an area populated by pinnipeds, Mexican military, a few fisherman and shark biologists. And I have a good portion of my trip chronicled on video for posterity.”
What’s next? Jacques laughed, “I might need to consider an underwater housing for the X70 in the near future!”