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Care of Underwater Housings

At the finish of every shooting day, always rinse off the camera housing, lights and accessories with fresh water, especially when shooting in salt water. A daily clean and check of all exposed o-rings should be performed, as well as checking the external controls for camera run, iris and focus for ease of operation. In full sun, always cover the housing with a solar blanket or at least a white towel to avoid overheating the camera, batteries and especially the film. Do not over-grease any O-ring. The purpose of silicone on an O-ring is to keep the rubber supple, allowing it to lay comfortably in the groove. Too much silicone grease does nothing for the seal and actually attracts grit and debris, which can cause a leak.

In case of salt water exposure to any camera system, immediately disconnect battery power. Break down the entire camera system and rinse with fresh water. After the fresh water rinse, pour alcohol over the parts to displace the fresh water and allow the unit to dry. If there was fresh water exposure, go directly to the alcohol step and allow the unit to completely dry. These emergency steps might not get your camera system back on line, but will at least prevent much of the damage that would be caused to the camera if it were sent in for repairs while wet.

As a camera assistant caring for an underwater housing, one of the most important things to remember is that it’s your responsibility to maintain the watertight integrity of the housing. No matter where the equipment comes from, no matter how recently it has been serviced or how thoroughly it was prepped, there are countless accidents, mistakes and oversights that can cause a potential leak. Every time a housing is opened for a magazine or lens change, careful attention must be paid while re-sealing the housing. No housing is 100 percent leakproof if safeguards are not applied.

In addition to the camera assistant’s normal complement of tools, an underwater service kit will cover most of the problems that might arise. This kit should include a bottle of alcohol, a tube of silicone lube and spray, silicone adhesive, dental picks, Q-tips, a Scotch Brite pad, electrical tape, WD-40, soldering iron and solder, cotton towels, a multi-meter, spare O-rings, self-adhesive Velcro and an Allen wrench set.

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