Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting In Cold

(You might also like to check out Winter )

Cold climate cousins

I have been asked to research a mountain climbing doco shoot in South America. The producers are keen to go with small three chip Sony DV cameras due to their light weight and expendable nature. I have not shot a project with these cameras but I have played with them and have been surprised by the quality although without doubt inferior to 16mm or betacam. Although I agree that these cameras are not "professional" as such but when climbing 6000 meters the light weight is very very attractive and the low cost means several cameras can be taken. My questions relate more to the operation of gear in temperatures likely to go down to -20 Celsius. Here in Australia I have had plenty of practice in the desert shooting at +45 C but little in "Arctic" conditions. Does anyone make heated or insulated covers for the small cameras and any other handy hints re gear and batteries when it becomes brass monkey weather.

Tom"leave the surfboard at home" Gleeson

Dear Tom (and CML)

I cannot make any comment about useing the DV Cam as I know very little about it. However as far as keeping the camera warm is concerned have you seen/had any experience with the flexable heated pads ? (the only source I can find is RS components (book-2-564)Nov 97) These APPEAR from the blurb to be a very good answer to these kinds of problems. I was wondering has anyone had any experience of making a barney for either a film or video camera from these pads?

Justin Pentecost

Once I had a problem while working with a JVC KY 35 camera which are very sensitive to low temperature situations. My solution was (while I was shooting in minus 40 degrees celcius) to tape a pocket heater (which uses Zippo lighter fuel and last almost 24 hours) to the cameras heat sensitive head. The metal body spreaded the heat to the whole body and I had no problems with cold. I even didn't use a barney or any cover. You may find these kind of pocket heaters (or pocket stoves, whatever they call) in most of the outdoor accessories shops.

I don't have any idea about altitude problems, but I watched two or three low budget Turkish documanteries which shot with V8 cameras. Poor picture quality but they had working if I could watch them.

Hope this helps.

Dogan Sariguzel

Tom & Justin,

I have used some of those disposable heating pads on a couple of shoots in the past. I find an interesting selection of these available in outdoor/camping & hunting stores. The pads come in sizes ranging from 4" squares up to 24"x24".

I have an old [but incredibly sharp!!] Zeiss 10:1 T3 zoom on one of my SR-2 packages which tends to get a little sluggish when zooming in temperatures below freezing. I simply "activate" one of these pads and wrap it around the lens, of course making sure it does not conflict with any rotating stuff. I secure it in place with a long velcro strip and insulate it with a piece of an old space blanket.

It works!

These pads are disposable and last an hour or two. Be advised not to rip one while it is on the camera, they are stuffed with some type of a "saw-dust" like powder. Maybe enclose them in a plastic zip-lock bag first.

The larger pads could be stuffed inside your sound barney to help keep the mag & body warm. And keep one in your pocket for yourself [don't forget your comfort too!]
They warm up to around 120 degree F, not bad!

Stay Warm,

Thanks for the interesting information. I have to confess that these pads were not what I had in mind (however I will go out and buy a few anyway for reasons you will see below :). The pads I was refering too are flexiable and cuttable to any shape (my idea was to make a heated barney for my SR). They run on 12V power at various ratings from 1.25W (50x25mm) 80W (200x400mm). Of course it very much depends on the size of your production. If you have to lug all your power up the mountain in a backpack then Jeff's solution would be by far your better bet. Last January I did a shoot in Prague when the temperature was -25 degrees. I had a folded up (which is STRICTLY against the instructions!) electric blanket with a thermostat covering the camera which we removed to shoot.

I saw a company on the www that was offering a 12V electric blanket for about 30 or 40 dollars US. If you have copious quantities of 12V power then this is also a possible soloution.

Justin Pentecost

I'm wondering if you have given any thought to how you will manage condensation when you open this barney for film mag changes?

Sudden temperature changes tends to muck things up.

If you only heat the barney to less than freezing, then condensation would become a non-issue. I would guess that + 20 - 30 degrees is within the operating temperature of most cameras.

I've been amazed before at the solutions to problems posted here.

I would love to hear some ideas on how to manage condensation if the barney/camera is heated above freezing.

Cliff Hancuff

The answer is simple :) never let the temperature change too much. what we were really worried about was takeing the camera from a warm apartment into the freezing outside. By keeping the camera constantly warm we avoided condensation altogether. Also I am not sure about the camera being good to -30 degrees. I would think that at that temperature the lubrication would no longer be effective abd would tend to drag the mechanism. Personally I found it more difficult shooting in Dubai going from hideous airconditioning to the outside (45 degrees 80% humidity).

The answer to this was not to use the aircon in cars and leave the windows open. Interestingly it was possible to leave a vehicle unattended in this state.

Justin Pentecost

Maybe I haven't shot in cold enough conditions, but I have never seen anything that is warm covered with condensate when brought into the cold. The problem has always been in taking cold equipment into warm environments. If your concern were valid, wouldn't we be seeing moisture condensing on the outsides of warm coffee cups out on the cold locations? I'm not a rocket scientist, but in my experience, heat dries things out!

We shot a feature years ago using an English ACL as prime camera. Quite a bit of shooting was done in sub-freezing weather, not a pretty situation for that camera! We made a vinyl weather barney for the camera that had a skirt attached that surrounded the fluid head. Beneath the tripod we hung a 3000 BTU catalytic heater in the open air. The heated air would funnel up into that skirt and warm the camera (and the operator's eye on the finder!) Camera ran faultless and perfectly dry.

On another feature we were shooting in upper Wisconsin in January with an SR-II. We used only a weather barney, no heater. Although the SR-II is supposedly limited to -4 deg. F, we shot in -13 deg. F with no problems. The camera took about 2 or 3 seconds to get to speed, but ran in sync.

--Wade Ramsey

You may want to consider using the new Cannon 3 chip camera. It lists for $500 more, but has better optics (interchangeable lenses).

Try placing the camera in a sealable plastic bag (the kind used to store leftovers), the condensation will then form on the inside of the bag, not on the camera.

Jessica "too many cheapo industrial shoots" Gallant

...the condensation will form on the *outside* of the bag, not inside.

Jessica, I know what you meant, but others here may not have...

Cliff Hancuff

For a panavision Job, I Sewed a "PANANEGRO" Basically a duvetyne Barney, that I could stuff a small heating pad into. Kept the Torgue motors warm enough. Of course always needed to have a Genny from the electric department, but after the first request, they set that up within five minutes of arriving at the location.

Doesn't help you on top of a mountain though.

Steven Gladstone

The 3000 BTU catalytic heater I referred to in my other posting about this wasn't heavy, tho' a little bulky, and had a bail handle to carry it with. It's a Coleman camping product, and would have a lot of other applications on a frigid camping trip!!

Most barneys are fitted, padded bags that surround the camera, usually with zip open segments so you can access various parts of the camera. Another insulated bag (with heater) wouldn't be a bad idea for carrying loaded mags.

The arrangement I described for our English ACL was so warm I suppose the new magazine warmed up pretty quickly, and I would guess that since winter conditions usually combine with low humidity, the interior of a heated barney isn't going to contain much moisture. In any case I've never had that problem and haven't heard it described as a possibility.

--Wade Ramsey

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