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Dave Roveri August 18th, 2004 09:33 PM

Sub-Zero Shooting
Hi everybody!

I just finished watching a discovery channel documentary called "trailblazers" in which a journalist visit the coldest place on earth; the city is called Verkhoyansk in east siberia. The thing that i'm really interested to know is what kind of camera they used to shoot in such a difficult environment: the temperature is costantly at least -25 C and in Verkhoyansk reached -40 C!!! Someone have an idea of what incredible piece of gear can work in a scenario like that? p.s. the image quality was great, even in night shooting where people are sitting around a table inside a wood construction lit only by a petrol lamp...

Thank you all!
Dave Roveri

Ken Tanaka August 18th, 2004 10:33 PM

Welcome Dave,
The short answer: no camera can shoot in such conditions without the benefit of some serious protection. I have shot footage at -30F with a GL1 and can tell you that it's no ball. The camera was covered in a Porta Brace Polar Bear cover with 3 heat packs located in strategic locations (over the battery, over the lens and over the HAND!).

The first challenge of such conditions is to prevent fogging the lens and viewfinder in such conditions. If you fog it you're done for a while. You can't just wipe it off, as that will make a terrible frozen mess.

The second great challenge is to make sure that you warm the camera gradually to prevent internal condensation.

These would be the same main issues faced by any camera operator. As the program was on Discovery I would assume the crew shot in HD, perhaps on a Sony HD900 or a similar rig.

Rob Lohman August 19th, 2004 02:00 AM

Actually I saw another program where they where shooting with
some betacam for Discovery at -60 (degrees C) in the coldest
place on the earth (somewhere in Russia) where the maximum
cold was around -71.2 if I remember correctly. And I saw no
protection AT ALL on the camera. Now perhaps they where doing
something between takes or something, but I'd rather have
a polar cover for the camera indeed.

They did say one of there two camera's broke down (as did their
electric temperature meter) and their batteries lasted only for
15 minutes in this cold. Suprised the lens didn't crack <g>

Robert J. Wolff August 19th, 2004 04:15 AM


I shoot at -10 to -30F every winter, here in the Adirondacks, of New York.

Like Ken, I use a Porta Brace Polar Bear cover. But, underneath that cover, I keep my Porta Brace Rain cover, (my "summer" cover), on the camera. Just like you and me, multible layers are better than one. I also tape a heat gel/pack under the lens, because, as you are aware, heat rises.

The biggest problem with a shoot in the cold, is not so much a clean lens, (hard to do in a wet snow storm), but to keep the oils and grease that lubricate your lens and other physically moving parts, from freezing. Hense, my use of the heat gels beneath the lens & camera; plus, both sides of the cam. In general, I use 4 heat gels at a time. I have with me at all times. enough gels to last me 16 hours, changing the used ones @ every 4 hours.

On most pro extended shoots in sub zero temp's, the camera's and lens' are stripped down, and an extremely light lubricant replaces your normal stuff.

I don't have much of a fogging problem with my equipment, as, i am hoofing in for a distance, and, time takes care of that.

The biggest problem that I run into is the fluid pan head gets stiff. SLOWLY, panning the head in all directions, alleviates this problem.

Bill Pryor August 21st, 2004 10:06 PM

Most professional cameras generate quite a bit of heat, so if they're well covered, they might stay warmer than you'd expect. I've never shot in those extremes. I think the worst cold I've shot in was about -10 F. My 2-hour batteries lasted about 15 minutes. And that wasn't all bad, because I only lasted about 15 minutes too, and a dead battery is a good excuse to go inside and warm up.

John Richards August 22nd, 2004 08:08 AM

Has anyone done any shooting from the Tundra Buggies at Churchill , Manitoba ?. I've arranged a holiday in October and wonder whether conditions inside the buggy are that cold , of course from the viewing platforms it will probbably be -10 to -20 but I doubt if I can stand that for very long anyway. Spare batteries seem to be in order but are there any problems with the camera ? the manual gives the operating range as 0 to +40.

Jeff Patnaude August 23rd, 2004 11:15 AM

I've shot in -50 F covering dog sled races in Bemidji MN. God- I'm so glad I moved south!
The lense -zoom froze ( no warming cover) and my batteries went fast- even though I had them on the inside of my parka. It's tought manipulating the zoom and camera controls with mittens. Gloves dont work well in those extremes.

I guy I work with in Minneapolis shot video of the expedition to the north pole with the Steiger team. He had some really scarey stories. He shot with a wind-up 16mm camera. Juntunen is now a well-to-do large business owner there, with a BIG post facility and all. They had to eat enormous amounts of food to keep up with their racing metabolisms. I guess the body works overtime to produce more heat, and burns calories accordingly.
Will this help-no-sorry.
My two cents.

Jeff Patnaude

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