It's often said that we know more about the depths of the Universe than the ocean floors of our own planet, but this might soon change with OceanoCam, a newly-developed cheap underwater camera for capturing high-definition video at great depths, aimed at both research community and the entertainment industry.

The system, which was developed by the French underwater filming experts at Océanopolis in collaboration with Boom Audio&Video;, Oceanic Pictures and Fougerolle, includes a camera unit with pan/tilt head, three powerful LED lights (a 1000 lumens spotlight and two 2400 lumens lights), a 600m optical fiber cable and an HD recorder unit.

The camera is enclosed in a sealed aluminum structure designed to fit in any ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and can withstand enough pressure to submerge up to 500 meters, while its powerful lighting system penetrates the deep-sea darkness and allows for high quality images to be taken and stored on a local disk array.

The pictures are fed to the host ship in uncompressed HDSDI format via the fiber optics cable and can be recorded using the included HD unit with a laptop, eliminating the need for further expensive equipment. The joystick control panel can remotely set the camera's pan, tilt and zoom from the surface.

The invention was a finalist for this year's IBC Innovation Awards, which took place on September 11-15 in Amsterdam. "This recognition of our initiative encourages us in discovering more and more about biodiversity on behalf of everyone," Philippe Coyault of Océanopolis commented. "The new pictures of the underwater world will help scientists raise awareness for the protection of the oceans."

Due to its modularity and reasonable cost, in fact, the OceanoCam could be easily employed for anything from natural surveillance and submarine webcams to wildlife documentaries.