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Effectiveness of video recording divers in training



“To video or not to video, that is the question”

Let me start by saying that I use video to record all my students during their training courses. It all comes down to how much quality & value you as the instructor want to add to your courses..? I really believe that if all instructors do not start using video reviewing techniques they will soon find that they will start losing customers – and rightly so!!

This article is to explain the reasons why I choose to use video and give some tips and tricks on the best ways to do it and how to handle the additional problems and concerns with shooting video.

Sidemount Essentials on the Karwela Shipwreck in Gozo

As HD video cameras are getting smaller and smaller, plus relatively low in cost and easy to use, an instructor these days does not have much choice than to shoot video really… if they do not students will most likely turn up to class with their own cameras, which means the students focus will always be on taking videos/pics for sharing with their friends on YouTube and Facebook rather than what they should really be focusing on – learning to dive correctly.

People want memories and they get them by documenting, recording & sharing everything they do or are going to do… this is, after all, a facebook world we live in!!

If an instructor did not offer you video recorded feedback during any advanced diver training levels (meaning anything after your open water course) I would advise you not to take training with that instructor. Why? For the simple reason they either do not understand the advantages what video feedback brings or they are not that capable as an instructor to get you looking good enough to be on video at the level they are training you at!

Steve and Eduard Sidemount Cave Training Mexico

Important note: If a diver is just learning to dive – for example, doing a discover scuba dive or open water training dive – then I would not advise that the instructor uses the video camera, instead have a professional assistant do any recording.

Advantages of having video feedback

  • Allows the instructor to give each student detailed critique of their performance after dive (sometimes whilst underwater, if video camera has a LCD screen playback option and you have enough dive time).
  • Students take more interest in their training i.e. they can see if their knee drops or fin blade angle is correct when learning to frog kick, or if they are maintaining trim and breathing control when not moving, etc…
  • Giving video feedback greatly speeds up the daily learning process; when a diver views their videos they absorb the feedback in their own preferred style.
  • Divers during training perform better as they always think they could at any moment be recorded, so emphasis is on doing skill correctly (performing well).
  • Students being able to keep the videos after the course is also very important as the student now has a way to review and practice the correct techniques; this helps the student maintain the high standards set during training.
  • Students will play a part in developing their own personalised training materials, which again ensures they continue to dive correctly after training. This is through skill retention as it may be a few weeks/months after their course before they can dive again, so having videos to review is crucial.
  • Videos provide a cue/reminder that students can use to mentally rehearse and practice skill out of the water – much better than just in front of the mirror.
  • In some cases having the student video record the instructor’s demonstration can really add value during the video debriefing session, and again for the student to bench mark themselves against the instructor after the course.

Steve, Jana and Yohan Air Sharing 2

Good example of effective use of video recording

Let’s look at teaching a diver to backwards kick (usually it takes 2 days to learn):

  1. Diver receives a thorough briefing including video of the ideal technique & completes dry land simulations of this skill.
  2. Diver then watches a live underwater instructor demonstration of the skill.
  3. Diver then attempts the skill (instructor video records student).
  4. Instructor first demos what the student just did incorrectly and then re-demos what the student needs to change (student video records instructor).
  5. Now the student tries again (instructor video records student).
  6. Rest of dive is completed, without diver having unnecessary repetition and frustration.
  7. Diver reviews the both the student and instructor videos on land after dive and sees what actually happened, leaves then with a clear understanding of what is needed for improvement (skill mastery).
  8. Diver then (next day) when fresh repeats skill and effectively builds the correct technique as they fully understand what they were doing incorrectly (this maximises there learning curve and training time).

I have found this 8 step method works very well for all skills and the majority of my students are capable of doing some effective back kicking on the 2nd day. Prior to video reviewing I have had much less success and found that it requires a lot more time/dives and much more frustration on both the student & instructor when learning.

Steve and Vas Submarine

Should I video everything..?

No. To be honest this results in too much debriefing time and detracts what can be efficiently learnt each day. I suggest you apply common sense when wondering how much to shoot and very quickly you will get feedback about this.

Best parts to make sure you video are if say a student has a difficulty with understanding what is expected of them, for example they always do a great valve shutdown exercise but at the end they always forget to check which regulator they are breathing from and how much gas in now in both cylinders.

Instructors need to move with the times

“Those who can do, those who cannot teach!! Those who can and do are instructors.”

All instructors should be comfortable and ready at any time to have any of their skill demonstrations video recorded and later analysed by their students. I think doing this is great as it really raises the bar for instructor demonstrations and for sure levels the playing field for students comparing their skills to their instructors and what actually needs to be mastered – “practice what you preach!!”

Does video recording have much impact on your students/instructors..?

Most students start a course saying they have never seen themselves underwater before, then by the end of training like it so much that they usually go straight out and buy themselves an underwater video camera. This is also true for every instructor who has come to me for training – they have seen so much value added using video reviewing they also go out and buy a camera, then say they will be using it for all their future courses too.

This is another way to mount your GoPro for cave diving with Steve Martin

Why I think video cameras are not used by instructors

This article is not a review on different video equipment, so I speak from my 3+ years of training and my experience using all the models of GoPro cameras, which are very compact in size, easy to use and not an expensive investment (see pictures).

Over the years I have heard a lot of instructors say “carrying video equipment adds task loading, it’s bulky, gets in the way of diver training, plus it’s expensive!!”

Regarding the “task loading” issue – ask yourself who should be the most comfortable and least task loaded underwater during a training dive. Simple – the instructor. It’s their job to insure the environment they are training you in is suitable for the type of training they are conducting and using a small camera at key points during the dive should not be over task loading them, should it?

Instructors should only teach and make training dives in environments that are conducive to dive training – e.g. a low visibility dive site (only being able to see 1 metre) is not a suitable dive site for compass/navigation training. Actually, I would argue there is no point making a dive in those conditions for any reason, and for sure it is not safe!!

Any instructor that says it’s too expensive to buy video equipment probably is also charging a low amount or close to nothing for their training courses. So to any students out there reading this, please go with someone that offers value in training and they have a solid reputation in the field you’re looking at learning in.

If an instructor offers video feedback during training, they will not be worried about others seeing and critiquing their training methods/videos, so they are standing by the training they are offering, which is great.

Tec Sidemount Course Start

Training workshops

Due to many requests, I have decided to offer workshops for divers and instructors on how to effectively use underwater video cameras as teaching tools. Some of the topics covered are setup and storing camera, video features, buoyancy training techniques, what to shoot and when, post dive video analysis and ways to best document and market your dives after training, and using your videos. Remember it is all about maximising your teaching effectiveness.

This article has a comments section below, so if people can put together structured questions or points for discussion on this subject, I will do my best to answer each point raised in detail as I am sure this article could have been 10+ pages long and branch off into some many other areas of diver training.

If you enjoyed the read and found it useful please say so and please share it with any other divers/instructors you think will benefit from it.

Thanks and stay tuned for my next article – it will be on a very important topic related to technical sidemount diving – that is all I can say for now 🙂

Steve Martin is a Sidemount Diving Specialist, PADI Course Director and Technical Instructor Trainer, and can be found all over the world diving and offering training to others. Steve is one of the key people leading the field in the development of sidemount diving. Find out more about Steve at his website: and his Facebook page:

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