Application and use of underwater video
This article is recommended by the editorial team.This article is about the history and application of underwater video. Related articles are underwater video systems, which is about equipment of underwater video systems; and video technology, which deals with video as such. Video imaging in wells and boreholes is similar to underwater video, but puts constraints on the shape and size of the equipment, as does for example underwater video in sewer pipes, nuclear power plants or fish tanks.
The first attempts in the field of underwater photography were made with a pole mounted camera in the 1850s by the British William Thompson, and several successful attempts were made over the next decades. The first published scientific results from an underwater camera are from 1890 and were made by the French naturalist Louis Boutan (1893) who developed underwater photography to a useful method, inventing the underwater flash and other equipment. Photographic techniques, including cinematography, were used exclusively for many years, as television at that time was at its very earliest development stage.
Underwater video has existed since the 1940s. The first published results are by Harvey Barnes in Nature (1952, but it is mentioned in the article that the Admiralty (UK) made successful attempts before that, and that Barnes himself started development of the method in 1948.
Since then, underwater video has been used for many purposes. The references given are not selected to be the first published results (although they may be), but only given as examples and starting points for a selected few applications.
From the start, underwater video has been used for marine biological studies (see also Figure 3). It may be abundance (Smith & Papadopoulou, 2003; Moser et al, 1998) behavioural studies (Grémillet et al, 2006; Esteve, 2007) habitat mapping (Ryan et al, 2007; Abdo et al, 2004) studies of fishing and trawling (Zhou & Shirley (1997; Cooper and Hickey, 1987) and whether the seabed is damaged or not by it (Vorbeg, 2000; Linnanne et al, 2000) even in combination with a water sampler (Dounas, 2006) and to separate living corals from dead (Harris et al, 2004.)
It has also been used for marine geology (Field et al, 1981), sediment studies (Osborne & Greenwood (1991)), tidal microtopography (Lund-Hansen et al, 2004), bridge (DeVault, 2000) and pipeline (Gracias & Santos-Victor, 2000) inspections, sports (Blanksby et al, 2004) , marine archaeology (Coleman et al, 2000), entertainment, education and more.
The reasons for this widespread use are several. The most viable alternative to underwater video for making visual observations (if you want moving pictures!) is a to be a diver or to use a waterscope. Both these methods have limitations regarding depth, observation time, temperature, accessibility, documentation procedures etc., that makes video superior in many of not most cases.
A bibliometry made in 2000 (Harvey & Mladenov, 2001)shows that the number of papers in the study on underwater video peaks in the mid 1990s. The reason for this is probably that before this, the equipment was expensive and bulky, and thus not very apt for underwater use. The evolution of electronics made the video equipment small (and cheap) enough for widespread use in the 1990s, and many novel applications were reported. Today, papers about video technology per se are not as numerous – not because video is not used any more, but because video is a standard method.
In spite of this, there are many misconceptions and some confusion about the technology, in particular when it comes to the evolving digital video systems. Some of these are dealt with in other Coastal Wiki articles; i.e. underwater video systems about equipment and video technology, which deals with video as such.
Pros and cons
For any mapping method there is a trade-off between resolution, coverage, labor intensity and information content (Kautsky, 2006) , see figure 4, where some video methods are compared to other. You may notice that video performs well in terms of resolution and information content, not so good when it comes to workload and areal coverage.
One obvious advantage of video is, that you can use your most capable perceptional system – the vision. What you get is what you see. As opposed to other imaging methods (for example underwater acoustics) you can see colours, shapes etc. (mostly) the way you are used to.
The cost of a simple video system is nowadays not prohibitive. It is mostly non-intrusive and non-destructive; one exception is for example the REMOTS sediment profiler, vertically slicing the sediment-water interface and viewing the sediment in profile (Rhoads, Germano and Boyer, 1981). Another advantage is that it is easy to communicate results to both peers and to non-specialists.
The most prominent limitation on the use of underwater video is visibility, or rather the lack of underwater visibility. Lighting conditions, scattering particles in the water, the water itself, reduce the visibility (in most practical cases) to a range of a few tens of meters, often less. Due to this (and camera resolution limitations) relatively small areas are imaged compared to for example side-scan sonar.
The evaluation is obviously biased towards visual features but studies using ultraviolet light are reported (Losey, 2003) , and although infrared light is rapidly attenuated in water it has reportedly been used for illumination (Hinch & Collins, 1991) .
The sometimes labor intensive evaluation of video material can be considered a disadvantage, and there is sometimes a risk of inter-observer biasing that should be considered and addressed if several observers are working together.
JNCC Joint Nature Conservation Committee (UK) Marine Monitoring Handbook (2001); in particular PG 3.5 Drop down video, PG 3.13 Subtidal hand-held video, PG 3.14 Towed sledge
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- DeVault, J.E. (2000); Robotic system for underwater inspection of bridge piers; Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine, IEEE; 3:3, pp. 32-37
- Gracias, N., Santos-Victor, J. (2000); Underwater Video Mosaics as Visual Navigation Maps; Computer Vision And Image Understanding; 79:1, pp. 66-91
- Blanksby, B. A., Skender, S., Elliott, B. C., McElroy, K., Landers, G. J. (2004); An Analysis of the Rollover Backstroke Turn by Age-Group Swimmers; Sports Biomechanics; 3:1, pp. 1-14
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- Losey, G.S. (2003); Crypsis and communication functions of UV-visible coloration in two coral reef damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus and D.reticulatus; Animal Behaviour; 66:2, pp. 299-307
- Hinch, S., Collins N. C. (1991); Importance of diurnal and nocturnal nest defence in the energy budget of male smallmouth bass: insights from direct video observations; Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 1991;120, pp. 657–663
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