Fitting out a boat for video shooting

Part 2 – what camera(s) and where and how to mount

Over the years, I have outfitted many vehicles for live shooting of video. I have done cars at the Indy Grand Prix week on the Gold Coast, rally cars and my own Monaro among others, but fitting out a boat brings utterly different challenges.

Water of course is the biggest issue to deal with (although dust can be equally as bad), but unlike race cars, weight is not too much of a problem – unless you are rigging up racing boats where the same things apply; that is added weight means loss of speed.

What is important though is flexibility, and by that, I mean the options you have to get shots that are varied and different.

Different Scenarios

For example, if you are shooting for a fishing video, anyone can hold a camera and point it at the actual person holding the rod that (maybe) has a fish on the end of the line. (That has been faked more times than I care to count over the years!)

But how about getting varying shots from different angles? A camera attached to the rod for example, or a camera under the water to get the last dramatic seconds before the fish is hoisted aboard. Perhaps a body mounted cam on the fisherman and / or the person hauling the fish aboard. Or a cap mounted one.

If you are lucky enough to have a fly bridge on the boat, then a camera mounted up high and pointing down to the back deck can get some very dramatic shots of the action. Many years back when shooting from a game boat (Signacharter and Captain Greg Guy) in Kiama on the NSW south coast, the camera I had mounted on the rail pointing out to starboard of the boat (the right side for you landlubbers) got a magnificent sequence of a marlin doing successive jumps in a dead calm sea for about 10 seconds (and yes it was catch and release).

And then there is the shot(s) of dolphins surfing in the bow wave, the mesmerising wake white water behind a boat at speed and of course we mustn’t forget the emotions of the protagonists – the skipper, crew, bystanders and the fisherperson themself.

And that is just fishing!

What about the thrill seekers who choose skiing, paragliding behind a boat, diving into the depths via a snorkel or full scuba? The options are almost limitless.

And all of these require a mount for the camera(s) of some type in other to get stable footage, and a means to control these cameras that is quick and easy.

GoPro Cameras and Mounts

Over the years I have reviewed many, many so-called “Action Cams”. The first was of course the venerable GoPro and this has evolved over the years to the latest model, the GoPro 10 Hero Black.

The GoPro (by the way, I refuse point blank to refer to brand names as if they were people the way say, Apple calls “the iPhone” simply “iPhone” has had many attempts to topple it from its perch over the years, from not just cheap and nasty knock off pretenders, but also reputable camera manufacturers including Sony, Nikon, Canon and even DJI (as we speak, DJI has just announced the Action 2 and more on that elsewhere).

But the strength of the GoPro has been based around the ecosphere it has generated, particularly in the area of the available mounting options.

The twin “finger” mounting point of the GoPro camera is now ubiquitous, and you can find mounts from GoPro and 3rd party manufacturers to account for just about any situation.

As mentioned, I have mounted GoPro’s in race cars, on boats and motor cycles, on helmets, chests and even BudweiserTheDog (RIP) Our colleague Stephen Turner has even mounted them externally on real aircraft wings!

Add to this the enclosures available for earlier models making them waterproof (newer models need no external enclosure) for protection against splashing water and even snorkelling, plus full-on enclosures for SCUBA down to 30 metres.

Due to wireless / Bluetooth technology, GoPros can be started and stopped and otherwise controlled via the Quik app on smartphones and tablets and some models even voice activated.

So you can see, my choice of which camera to use to kit out my boat became a no-brainer.

Some years back now when Australian Videocamera was still a paper-based publication I interviewed Paul Worstelling of IFISH fame on Channel 10, on just how that program was put together. Things for them have evolved too, but the basis of having a main cameraman with something like a shoulder mount Sony camera is still very much the go for the on-the-fly stuff, and if you can afford someone to act as this (or a willing volunteer) all well and good.

What I want though was a system whereby I can drive the boat and still have access to everything I want in one spot to control the camera(s) while others simply enjoyed themselves and are only available on call as and when needed.

This means I need to have mounts permanently in place on the boat to very quickly snap a GoPro in place as and when the need arises.

The plan is to have, at a minimum, 4 cameras on tap all controlled via Wi-fi using GoPro Quik on a Samsung Galaxy tablet that is mounted on the boat’s console, so while driving I have full access and can “switch” between cameras as needed for monitoring purposes.

The contents of this case mostly came from The units in white I designed and printed myself on my Adventurer 3 3D printer from Jaycar ($899).

I’ll of course also have access to a handheld camera for those candid shots and my choice here is a trusty little Panasonic HC-V180 I have had for many years, and this is backed up with a DJI Pocket 2.

Of course, if I am on a “real” shoot, then I can also call on my Panasonic HC-PV100 which I still consider one of the most versatile camcorders ever made despite it being HD and not 4K.

Scoping Out The Boat

So, the next step in the exercise is to actually scope out the boat and see exactly what types of mounts are needed and where they are to go. Looking at the boat (as per the picture) I can immediately identify probably 10 places for a mount to be permanently added.

These are on the rail on the front pointing forward, one each side on the rail to the side of the boat near where the windscreen curves around, one inside on the “dashboard” on the left pointing backwards at 45° and one on top of the console to capture the driver’s emotions, probably two below decks, one rear mounted centre on the transom pointing backwards and one each side on the rear quarter pointing into the rear of the boat. One up high on the rail holding the canopy above the windscreen may also be a good option.

I am also toying with using my Hague jib mount with a GoPro mount added so that we can get some backward facing shots rising and falling – perhaps pulling a fish out of the water.

Finally, let us also not forget the new kid on the block for this sort of shoot.

The drone.

I will be choosing between my DJI Air2S or DJI Mini 2 for these adventures – I haven’t yet decided. I admit to still being slightly leery even after 4 years since my – ah – misadventure of losing a GoPro Karma drone to the bottom of Hervey Bay. To recap, with only seconds to go before landing safely on the deck of the boat of John Haenke, (a good mate who these days runs brilliant fishing charters off Bowen Nth QLD) – the battery suddenly failed – a now known fault – and Karma drone, GoPro 5 and SD card with some brilliant whale footage went to Davy Jones’ locker never to be seen again.

Over the next week, we are going to physically start mapping these points out by placing cameras in different locations and actually seeing what the imagery looks like.

And we haven’t even THOUGHT about audio yet ….

Stay tuned!

(For details on the Gopro cameras, go to



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