Hurricane proofing a video camera

Dec 8, 2003
Leicester, England
It is that time of year again and my thoughts turn to stopping water getting inside my video camera. (Sony HDC-FX1) …

Last year I tried a underwater enclosure from AW–Marine which is a flexi bag, good down to 10 meters. While this kept the camera 100% dry (I also packed it with silica gel sachets) the whole thing as a mess as the front of the bag kept slipping down and covering the lens (they really need the water pressure to keep things aligned) Also the sound was just terrible – all muffled and muted.

This year I am going to try a portabrase cover and see if that would work. But before I spend my money I was wondering what the other hurricane chasers use ??
a portabrace was meant for rain traveling verticall, not horizontally... :D

I'm using one of those clear thic canoe/kayaking bags with teh bottom replaced with lexan and epoxied in place. 100% dry. Doug K gave me this one and it works great. I'll probably make a new one that has a better internal mounting apparatus.
If you have one of the small camcorders as an extra you might want to check out a sportspack from Sony. I used one in Puerto Rico and Guam and elsewhare during major hurricane/typhoons. The pack works great and no worries about the camcorder getting wet unless some shingle or tree hits it.
I learned last year if your going to chase, get the right equipment.
Here is the housing for the PD-170 / VX 2100. With the diving weight and camera gear, it's weight clocks in at about 45 LBS. Without the weight, it is a lot easier to carry around band you don't have to worry about debris hitting it and taking it out. The front, 1" bullet proof lexan for diving up to 250' under water.


Nice rig! However, how do you do your sound? Wireless? I would think that would be the way to go. The "raincoat" solution does not seem very viable in hurricane conditions, At least not for any prolonged period of time.

I would think that no matter what solution you come up with, sound is going to be the major issue. Wired mics may be a little tough as that leaves an avenue for moisture to get in. Wireless appears to be a good option, but for quality, you'll spend some hard earned cash getting it. The little cheapo FM rigs, just don't do it. There are some nice battery operated and weather resistant wireless uhf/vhf units out there and I use one of the middle of the road units.

However, I'm not going to be anywhere near a hurricane, so I simply don't know how they would work and defer to those with experience.
Good day,
Not as elaborate as Mr Kiesling's rig but does it's job too for "what it's worth" ...


Simple enclosure for my smaller Sony TRV camera is above.


Here is another enclosure I built from clear acrylic (aka "Lexan") being used in Hurricane Rita. This one is for my Sony HDR-FX1 camera.


Gets the shots too ;-)

Sound is accomplished by two (stereo) PC microphones that are outside the enclosure with their "stems" going into the case, and electrical connections to a phono plug for the camera. The outsides of the mikes are sealed with rubber / plastic that lets sound pass thru and can be easily replaced if damaged (a condom works great for this)!

Simple but works great and stays dry.
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camera protection

Hey Chris, on this one:


What did you use for the clear end??

Just on a humorous note, better not leave that thing laying around. Being the "caution yellow" color and your initials being CDC, someone might think it's something hazardous from the Center for Disease Control. LOL
Good day, Dave

The clear end of the unit is 1/4" plexiglass (acrylic) disk I cut into an 6" circle and glued it to the flange / indet in front of the pipe. A Dremel rotary tool worked wonders with this project.


Essentially, it is a coupling for a 6" PVC pipe, with two "convertors" on each end to allow a 6" screw-on end cap to be used. One of these ends forms the screw-on side, where the end can be opened via a 6" PVC screw cap, the other end has been cut and "dremmeled" so that the 6" window fits flush in that end and is sealed in place with silicone cement. If may leak slightly if submerged for some time (through the "threads" in one end) but remains totally dry in side-ways rains and hurricane chases. Got lots of great shots through this one using my older TRV-110 camcorder!


The newer unit, I built from a bar-top game my neigbor was throwing out, beleive it or not. It is simply a box contructed from 1/2" thick lexan / acrylic with a "mail box" style door that latces shut on the open end. The HDR-FX1 camera, with lense hood, fits perfectly on its internal mount, and two mikes hook up to a stereo 1/8 standard phono plug for the camera's external mike. Works fantastic, and stays dry even under a few feet of water, although I designed this specifically for splashes and hurricane (sideways) rains.

A sealing rubber "tape" strip gasket fits tight when the opening door is latched shut. The entire unit, is the original orange from the bar-top fooz-ball table I dismantled, except for the front window, which is clear. Three handles are cabinet "U" handles, one in the front, two on each upper-side. Two microphones were made from the simple computer PC mikes, two of them, and are on the front sides of the unit, sealed with thin plastic / rubber to protect the mike heads, while the sealed stems go inside and wires connect to the L and R inputs on the 1/8" stereo jack for the camcorder.


A clear viewport on top of the unit allows the external remove, in a zip-lock bag to easily be used, so the case need not be opened. The LCD of the camcorder also appears through this window as well. It works like a charm, and filmed lots of surge footage during Katrina as well.

Keep in mind, there is always a "home brew" and "professional" approach to anything, especially these kinds of stuff. If you are planning on filming underwater stuff, then go with the larger investment of a professional system, like Doug's. One single drop of water in a camera, that's it, especially if it is salt water. In my case, just for hurricane and storm chasing stuff, the homebrew enclosures, giving a little creativity, suited my purpose well.

Oh, and yes indeed - CDC logo, taxicab-yellow "warning" color, and condoms for protection - Scary ;-)
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Thanks Chris. I enjoy "home brew" stuff. That's part of the fun of storm chasing for me, taking something made for some other application and making a use for it with what we do. Anyone can go store bought. It's very satisfying to adapt something and make it useful.

You guys thinking about camera protection, don't just think about water. I had to have a $590 repair done to a camera from shooting in a dust storm back in June that I failed to cover the camera up for. The entire mechanical tape mechanism had to be replaced! :eek:
Nice Rig Chris,

I did in the end purchase the KATA cover which seems OK - considering I started out on Isabel with a plastic bag and gaffer tape! - During Rita i tired the AWA- Marine - another bag which worked OK (good down to 10 meters apparenlty)- but the sound was awful! and the front lens cover kept shifting down blocking the lens.

I guess that I will have to keep the KATA for another year now as there have been no landfalling storms of any real note for me to make the trip from the UK (I also failed to see a tornado in 2006 as well!)

Nice rig! However, how do you do your sound? Wireless? I would think that would be the way to go.

Yeah it is wireless. I got sick of the home built systems and went for the Hurricane Chase without the weight or scuba dive with the weight, camera setup.

Then again, I could add in a lot of lead weight for my scuba diving to the camera and turn it into a probe camera. I have about 100 pounds in shot gun shell lead weight in bags for scuba diving that is called soft weight. Soft because it won't break your toes if it lands on your foot.

All I would need to do is chain the housing down and it can be a probe or surge cam.
Ok Doug,

Next dumb question. Are you doing anything special to reduce the wind noise? That much wind blaring over a standard fom pop filter makes an incredible amount of noise as we've heard in several tornado videos.

Are you using a "blimp", fur cover, or simply watching where you place the mic?

On external mic's I've found that I can reduce the wind noise considerably by using a fur cover. Of course the better quality ones are a little out of my reach for teh few extra db loss, but they do work. From what I can tell, the "blimps" are the best over all, but are generally used on a boom pole assembly and used more in filming movies rather than documentary or news gathering.
Interesting comment about the fur covers over Mic's - I am not sure that they work all that well once they get wet - which is quite soon in a hurricane - this is a problems that I have not yet solved... any suggestions ?