Audience at All That Fall
Audience at All That Fall

When I did the shoot I wrote about in my last post, I had access to the Jacobson sound blimp, and had heard of, but hadn’t seen, the Aquatech sound blimp. After that shoot came the PhotoPlus Expo, at which I checked out the Aquatech. It looked to me like a vast improvement, so when I got another assignment at BAM, this time to shoot Samuel Beckett’s radio play “All That Fall”, it was a confluence of happy coincidence: I really like Beckett, and I’d get a chance to try the Aquatech blimp.

So I called the New York rental houses, and lucked out at CSI. They didn’t have one for the Canon 5D MkIII yet, but would order one if I’d rent one. Done deal.

Aquatech, as you may have gathered by the company name, makes underwater camera housings. And their sound blimp uses much of the same technology: O-ring seal, clear back panel. It’s also got other advantages:

  • It’s got control access: the Quick menu and the control dial can be accessed through buttons on the back, so you can change mode, ISO, shutter speed, aperture …
  • You can review the images you’ve taken
  • It’s got a shape you can actually hold on to. (My hands are not large, and the rectangular shape of the Jacobson box makes my hands cramp.) The Aquatech shape is more grabable, if that’s the word I’m looking for, and it’s got grippy bumps that make it easier to hold.
Aquatech Sound Blimp
Aquatech Sound Blimp

One thing I should point out is that when I shoot performances, I almost always use a monopod. If I have to go to a slow shutter speed, the monopod will hold things steady. And in the case of sound blimps, it will help support the weight and control the awkward shape.

So I shot the performance, most of which was in the dark—really dark—and am happy with the  results, as is my client. And the blimp performed better than I’d hoped. The controls are a little awkward to use: they depend on alignment of the mechanical buttons and knobs on the housing with the camera’s controls, and while this is very good, it does take some effort to push against the spring-loaded buttons. And because of the controls, the blimps are camera model specific: the blimp for the 5D MkII, for example, won’t work on the MkIII.

Here’s the relevant audio file. Again, not scientific, but as close as I could get.

The sound of the shutter in the blimp registers at about -39 for the single shot, -38 for the short burst.

If you’re looking for a sound blimp, either to buy or rent, I’d recommend the Aquatech.

Here are more images from Samuel Beckett’s “All That Fall” at BAM.

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