Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Winterising Equipment

First, be prepared to a slower working condition, everything is cold and slows down.

Film gets very brittle and razor sharp, load magazines in warm condition if possible. 35 mm cameras, load in warm conditions if possible, if not possible have a lot of patients. 16 mm cameras with coax magazines are easier to use.

If equipment is moved from a warm area into the cold, and it is not snowing you have no problem. If it is snowing, either pre chill the camera before going into the snow storm, or protect the warm camera with a wet suit or plastic covers. If you do not follow the precautions, the snow will hit the warm camera , melt, seep into the camera, and will freeze once the camera gear gets cold and the camera will stop working.

If equipment is moved from the cold into the warm environment, seal the individual components air tight in plastic bags in the cold place a towel under the gear in the camera before moving into the warm condition. Once inside a warm room, condensation will form on the inside of the plastic bag and will run down inside the bag, and the condensation is collected by the towel. Do not open the sealed bag prematurely, or condensation will form inside the camera gear incl. the lenses.

It only takes few degrees temperature difference to create condensation.

Once condensation forms on the inside of lenses, the damage is done and leaves many times spots on the inside of the lens elements.

Have the gear cold weather prepared and tested by the rental facility you rent from, it is recommended that mechanical parts on camera and lens gear is lubricated with special cold weather lubricants.

Have the cameras tested in a freezing chamber, not for the mechanical but for the electronic components in today's sophisticated, electronic camera gear. Bring along spare electronic boards.

Have enough battery power, remember the Ni Cad batteries loss 10% of their rated capacity for each 10 degree below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is easy to figure out what is left in good batteries at minus 20 degrees. Keep batteries warm, possible under your coats etc.

Power cables may crack , and zoom motors work slower.

Any more questions call the manufactures for more info.

Juergen, Arriflex

My experience is to keep all cameras below freezing when used outside so that no frost forms on them. If you bring a camera into a warm environment and the bring it back out {or the opposite} the moisture will condense on any surface including inside lenses or viewfinders. If you must bring cameras indoors, plastic bag them and allow them to come to ambient temperature before handling. try to preload as many mags as feasible before the shooting day when your hands are warm enough to feel the film and as always be wary of moisture if the equipment goes above freezing.

My experience with batteries is to wear them on your body inside your jacket and to have THREE times as many as normal. As far as preparing the camera itself remove all lubricants and replace them with a much lighter grade where gears are involved.

This is from my experience with two films that I shot In severe environments in Alaska and on top of Mount Washington in winter at -30c

Mark Forman Film Productions

I did 2 weeks of shooting last January in Montana where the ambient air temperature was -14 degrees F (-25.5 degrees C) There was a constant 25 mph wind blowing, but we won't talk about wind chill because I hate to remember and cameras don't sweat, so it doesn't matter to the camera. We where shooting with an Arri 35-3 and a 435. We didn't have any trouble with the cameras at all. We did have trouble with the zoom lenses getting stiff. We used medical electric heating pads inside lens "barneys" that kept them warm enough to zoom and focus properly. We ran the heating pads from little Honda lunchbox sized generators.

We put the sealed lead acid camera batteries inside Igloo coolers with chemical or lighter fuel hand warmers inside and they worked fine. We cut little holes in the top for the cables to get out.

By the way, you will find out that you and your crew will freeze before the cameras do. The very very best cold weather boots are made by a company called Northern Outfitters (800) 944-9276. The boot is called the Expedition Boot. US$200 and worth every penny! It is very unique in that you do not wear any kind of socks with it, you put your bare foot in it. On the last shoot, the people that had them were toasty warm and everyone else, no matter what they wore, Sorels, etc, froze. The company makes a full line of cold weather gear too, parkas, overalls, gloves, etc.

Bill Bennett, Los Angeles

The only major problem I've had shooting at -25 was with an Arri 3, not the camera but the CE base, it went berserk totally unable to hold a fixed speed but worked fine at "normal" temperatures.

It's best to keep the kit at sub-zero to avoid condensation problems, I've shipped kit with packs of silica gel in the cases to keep moisture levels down as well.

Lenses tend to get very stiff and of course batteries die very quickly.

Oh yes, Jason made rubber coverings for the handle on the Arrihead, my fingers kept sticking to them!


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