eMachineShop.com to the Rescue

I had a Canon VIXIA HFM400 and the standard Canon WP-V3 underwater case and wanted to take the next step up in shooting quality underwater video. In other words, I wanted to add lighting to this setup but the question was how. I saw some solutions online, however, I had a pair of Sunray 2000 from Light & Motion that were the desired result in this case. The idea I had was to use the tripod mount on the WP-V3 to create a plate that I could screw the Sunray’s to and in addition have a way to mount the batteries to the plate as well.

To do this I went over to eMachineShop.com for the first time and downloaded their free CAD software to design the idea I had. Though I have seen CAD software in action before I have never designed anything in 3D. I found the software very easy to use and the only problem I could not solve myself was successfully creating the channels that would allow the battery packs to slide in which would be locked by set screws. I could draw them but I was doing it in such a way that the software told me the part could not be made when I tried to place an order. I emailed customer service with the problem I had and within a couple of hours they sent me a revised design that was identical to what I created but now machinable. Exactly what magic they instilled in the design I still do not know but the bottom line I was now on my way. Only after I checked, doubled checked, slept on it, and checked the design and dimensions again I placed the actual order. The custom part would not be cheap and nor would it be delivered quickly so I wanted to be sure everything was set. (The focus was to use the plate for video but to also have the flexibility to use a still camera case I had as well)

Designing the mounting plate with the free CAD software

I think it took about a month to get the part delivered. You can pay a lot more for a faster delivery but I was not in a hurry for this one and as I mentioned previously the service is not cheap to begin with! However, knowing how tool shops and fabricators work on the business side I understand the amount of time that goes into the setup and creation of a one up part like this. Thankfully everything fit on the piece as planned though if I were to do it again I would allow just a little extra room by separating the lights perhaps another inch in total from each other. I purchased a tripod screw from B&H Photo and some stainless steel set screws from a local hardware store and was all set to go.

Tripod screw mount under the plate

Between the battery packs, the lights themselves, and the aluminum plate now putting everything together the unit was now very much negative on buoyancy so I had the further idea to simply throw some swimming noodles I cut onto the arms of the lights. As if it was planned this addition gave the total unit a very slight positive buoyancy in salt water!

Camcorder Front View

Camcorder Top View

All together I was very happy how it all turned out. Sure it would have been easier to get an underwater case that was made for the lights but looking at those bulky options there was not something immediately available that fit the HFM400 and besides — if I thought the custom plate was expensive the pro cases make it look cheap. The bottom line it that it was a fun project that came together well. The eMachineShop was a great experience and as a bonus it was fascinating to see the noodles get crushed at depth from the water pressure and return to normal at the surface!

Diving Abaco with the Camcorder

To see the result of my first dive with the rig see my previous post.