Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Filming In The Tropics

When I was a gaffer I did several jobs in the Carribean and the problem you describe is very common and overwhelming. We found that spraying and wiping down all the equipment with silicon helped prevent the corrosion. However, it was an ongoing tedious chore as anything that wasn't repeatedly cleaned with fresh water and re-siliconed was likely to oxidize in short time. Even equipment that wasn't out much was subject to this condition. Keeping delicate equipment in cases and wrapped in plastic bags as much as possible helps cut down on the exposure to the elements. But the salt water and air is pervasive. It would be interesting to hear of others solutions to this problem.


Jim Sofranko

Well chaps,

I was; for my sins the Camera Mechanic on Papillon in Jamaica back in 1972 and I had 14 weeks of sun sand and sea together with humidity that was mind blowing. I found that a wipe down every night with a soaked WD40 cloth did the job. An oily rag for all the screws that showed also assisted greatly.

Look in the bottom of any RONFORD leg casting and you will find holes drilled. This follows my solution to legs filling with seawater and NOT draining; They all have been drilled ever since.

Happy Days.


I've heard some people say that WD40 isn't as good as silicon and might even have water in it's ingredients. Although I'm sure using it every night works fine. Does anyone know what's in WD40?

Jim S.

As I understand it, WD40 is essentially kerosene, some other oils(petrolem distallates), and perfume. LPS-1 is the same stuff with different perfumes. It is a water displacer (WD) NOT a lubricant. I prefer it to silicone for most metal surfaces partially because I have been conditioned to the smell but also because silicone is, at a microscopic level, particulate, and can, in fact cause wear on bearings.(or so I've been told.) WD is thin enough that it doesn't collect quite as much grit as some of the other sprays, and won't hurt electrical contacts. Be careful not to spray too much around LCD displays, as they have of two pieces of glass that are generally touching and the WD can wick between them through capillary action. It won't destroy leather, but it will eventually dry it out by drawing the heavier oils to the surface, so try not to soak leather things, though it won't hurt to get WD on leather.

Mark Weingartner

I live and work 3 blocks from the beach and have tried everything. A light (very light) wiping of a lite lubricant does work but I do several things before the lubricant.

1) Using a paint brush and a soft cloth (old cloth baby diapers or old T-shirts work great for this) dry wipe everything. You have to remove all the sand, dust and moisture. Compressed air is a great help as well, although you'll use a lot of it to do the job.

2) I open all the equipment and put it under a 500 watt lamp for a day to dry everything out. The lamp is usually 5 to 8 feet away so the equipment doesn't get hot - I just want it to get warm to speed up the evaporation process. Rotate your equipment every couple of hours to get to all the moisture.

3) Wipe it down again to get the salts left by the evaporated water.

Most of the time this is all that is needed to stop the rust and corrosion. If you prefer then you can do a light coat of a silicon based product. I haven't tried it yet, but gun enthusiast purchase silicon impregnated cloths to wipe down their guns. This might work well for the exterior parts of your equipment.

Another thing that helps is to use some sort of raincover while in the elements. When you are close to the beach, sand is literally in the air. If the wind is blowing then sand and moisture collects on your equipment. A well fitted rain cover helps to keep the sand and moist air off your equipment. The key is to remember that the sand and moisture is literally in the air. If you protect your equipment by protecting it from the wind you've solved many of your problems.

An interesting story - I was shooting at a dolphin tank one day and noticed that the dolphins always fell in one or two spots. I carefully positioned my camera where the splash wouldn't get me and asked the trainer to motion for the dolphins to jump. I witnessed a great shot just before the tidal wave created by the falling dolphin engulfed me and my video camera. The camera instantly shorted out. I quickly carried the camera to my engineer who opened it up, and put it under a 500 watt tungston light for 5 or 6 hours - constantly rotating it. Afterwards, he wiped it down to remove the "salts" and turned it on. The camera worked flawlessly for several years until it was replaced.

JR Allen

Another product to try is Silikroil from Kano Laboratories, 1000 S. Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN, 37211. They only sell by mail order.

It's far better than WD-40 for loosening things that are stuck or corroded, and for protecting surfaces temporarily from moisture. Its downside is that it gets gummy if left in place too long, say a year or more. Also smells more like an aftershave.

-- J.S.

Aluminum and aluminium are both wonderful substances. One of the things that is wonderful about aluminum is that when it oxidises a skin of aluminum oxide forms over the surface of the aluminum which seals it from further oxidation, and this aluminum oxide coating is actually harder than bare aluminum. That is one reason why one finds aluminum in use in a lot of water-intensive exterior applications. The white discolorations and slight powdery deposits are an unfortunate manifistation of this effect, which can be exacerbated by pollutants in the air much more than by humidity. You can polish the aluminum, thereby exposing bare metal again, but since the bare metal is softer it will reoccur. If you are building new cases, you can have the parts anodized first, a process which hardens the surface electrochemically and colors it as well, if you wish. This cannot be done with assembled cases, however. As the owner of thousands of pounds of aluminum and steel lighting and grip equipt, as well as a garage of motorcycles with un-coated aluminum motors and wheels, I have too much experience with this oxidation. (By the way, gaffers who might want to be involved in a New York based lighting company may email me privately, as can west-coasters who might be looking for a BMW motorcycle)

There is a product called either Ever-Brite or Nevr-Dull, I can never remember which, that is sold in many hardware and auto stores adn all truck stops and consists of cotton batting impregnated with metal polish. It is great for chrome and aluminum because it does not leave too much liquid on the aluminum. For sprucing up the case edges, I would just use some 4/0 (that is 0000) steel wool to rub it till it shines. Many people will recommend the 3m plastic scrubbing pads, but even and therefore a bit coarser.

You can actually put car wax or carnuba wax or Butcher's wax on the case edges after they are buffed and that will help keep the corrosion away a bit longer, but there is enough material there that a little steel wool now and again won't risk your weakening the cases and will give you a chance to check for loose corner hardware or rivets before they hang up on some conveyor belt in Nepal, spilling you precious cargo to the winds.

Good luck

Mark Weingarter

I'm catching up on mail so excuse my late entry here- but Ive heard comments on this thread about desilica packs ( i squirrel them away too) but check it out.


No kidding. thats why they put it in salt shakers- absorb the moisture. For interior camera placement just put some in a tea bag or coffee filter with a rubber band.

whatever the case, its cheap, all natural and camera friendly.

Caleb "jasmine" Crosby,

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