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Old May 27th, 2007, 10:22 AM   #1
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High Altitude Consumer DV -Himalayas

Pardon me if this is not the correct forum. I am new to this site and have searched but only find references to high end DV.
I am a climber leading a small expedition to the Himal this autumn. We must move fast and light (alpine style) so these are considerations for any gear carried. However, I am considering carrying a small DV if I can find one suitable in size/wght. I've used the Canon Elura 40MC for lower altitudes and skiing and (despite its consumer quality and loud motor) I've been reasonably satisfied. However, I have not been able to find any reference to altitude ceilings or general performance considerations at altitude.
*Can anyone recommend a tiny DV that may be suitable for documenting this climb? I can't afford to carry the Elura batteries, solar panel to base camp, etc. if it's simply not going to work. ANY help or references would be very helpful at this time. Thank you kindly. -Curtis
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Old May 29th, 2007, 01:18 AM   #2
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HI Curtis...........

I think the limiting factor with any camera system (if you can keep it from getting condensated, that is) is going to be the batteries. The batteries die with alarming speed once the temperature goes below 10 degrees C, which means, in effect, if you can't keep the battery permanently against the body and under clothing before, during and after you shoot, it's just not going to work.

This implies some sort of umbilical from the battery to the camera. My Canon HV20 takes a simple concentric 2 pole plug up it's bottom for 8.2 volts, tho' that voltage seems to be for driving the charger function, as the battery is rated at 7.4 volts. Ergo, it would be worth checking out those high capacity 7.2 volt power packs beloved of electric model car enthusiasts. Change the connector for a concentric power plug and an appropriate length of cable and you're in business as far as power.

As for temperature, heads you win, tails you lose. If it's kept under wraps unless being used it's vitals shouldn't get too frozen, but if you get it REAL cold and shove it under a sweaty down jacket, the chance of getting condensation go through the roof. Keep it out in the cold permanently and the condensation problem dissapears but what will happen to the lubricants on the tape drive and lens assembly is anyones guess.

If you're feeling brave you could get your chosen camera with appropriate power connector, whack it in your freezer for an hour or so (er, I would SERIOUSLY suggest that before doing so, you play "high altitude" and seal it into a plastic container with a shed load of silica gel to remove any moisture there is in the camera) and see what happens. If it comes out and works straight away with no stuck mechanisms. all well and good. If it don't, well at least an hour or so of warming should restore it to life.

The downside of that experiment is that exposing a -10 degree camera from a practically dry atmosphere to a warm atmosphere with heaps of moisture is going to give you and it a condensation problem of mega proportions - better conduct the above experiment in the cold room of your friendly neighbourhood meat packing company! (I jest not).

IF that works and you can solve the battery charging problem (hell, if you get that far how hard can THAT be) you're off and running.

You may want to buy a cheap second hand unit to try all of this out, if you haven't broken it by the finish of the above, either take it or buy a new one for the trip. Can't recommend a SD unit as don't know one which uses the 2 pole concentric connector for power - my HV20 is the first "dinky cam" I've seen which doesn't have an external battery charger per se, but does it "on board".

Good luck!

Cheers,


Chris

PS, You didn't say where, exactly, you were going. Anywhere near the Hunza in Pakistan?
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Old May 29th, 2007, 01:40 AM   #3
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Chris,

If he doesn't come back and respond. Let me just say that your reply to his question was spot on and I'm certain helpfull to him. Awsome post.

Jon
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Old May 29th, 2007, 01:41 AM   #4
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And another thing...........

IF, and I say, if, you can get a down jacket made or purchased (gonna be a rare item) that will fit the camera like a glove but leave access for the vital controls (you may have to forgo the flip out lcd, as at those temps I don't think it's going to work too well, you're going to have rely on the elf) it might stop the camera's internal temps from dropping to critical levels whilst shooting and thus allow you to stuff it back into your parka/ jacket etc when done without risking serious condensation.

Just a thought.


Cheers,


Chris
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Old May 29th, 2007, 01:45 AM   #5
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Well thank you Jon......

that's the nicest thing anyones said to me all day!

Cheers,


Chris
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Old May 29th, 2007, 02:32 AM   #6
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On the other hand...........

If I could but learn to stop "shooting from the lip" I wouldn't have dug myself such a gigantic pit with my first post!

Quite obviously, if the camera is used in "cold" mode then neither LCD is going to work. Bit of a bugger as without them you can't do diddly squat.

Which brings me back to "warm" mode. Get it warm, keep it warm. Solve that small (yeah, right!) problem and yer home and hosed (as the Aussies say - don't ask me why, I've no idea).

Can't remember what the minimum temp for LCD operation is but it's going to be too high for where Curtis is going.

Looks like you're back to the down or similar jacket for the cam and keep the shooting quick. I would suggest some form of battery powered heating, but that's venturing into the Twilight Zone for this application, knowing what current they draw.

Bottom line: This is not impossible, just difficult. Difficult we do right away, the impossible may be subject to the occasional delay!

Cheers,


Chris
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Old May 29th, 2007, 09:11 AM   #7
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Just a thought

Curtis,

have you considered using anything else than a camcorder? I am more than sure you will carry a digital photographic camera - why not make it one that can also film? I have a Sony DSC-F828 8 megapixel camera with very good optics that can also take moving images at 640x480 pixels resolution mpeg1 video and 64 kbps 32 KHz mpeg audio. Of course, the quality is lower than DV camcorders, but it records to microdrive (55 minutes per 4 GB microdrive) or Sony memory cards. Carrying a photo camera and a camcorder is a bit too much for me even down here at low altitude, but the photo camera is hanging on my shoulder almost all the time if I leave town, and I can take a short film with it if I need to.

If all you try to accomplish is to document the trip for yourself, it might be a viable option. As the title says... just a thought.
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Old June 3rd, 2007, 09:03 AM   #8
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Great ideas!

Thank you all for responding. I've been in the backcountry for awhile and it was great to see your thoughts.

a) I still have to wonder though, if keeping such a small camera in operating condition is so troublesome, how are the pros doing it when shooting high end video?
b) What do those cameras have that the consumer variety doesn't? (or, perhaps they simply have a lot of support crew to keep everything covered/warm?) Did you happen to see the phenominal helmet cam shots made by the Sherpa on the Discovery Channel Everest documentary? They had to have had something petite recording in their jackets. I seriously doubt they had a camera crew hidden behind the rock piles. ;-)

c) If I decide to take DV then my next hurdle is figuring out all the solar panel/charger stuff. ??

The still camera with microdrive is a nice option. However, if the microdrive is a hard disk like mechnism it will fail miserably at altitude. The thin air provides poor aerodynamics for the floating heads and they crash. Thats why we see so many posts about iPods failing in airplanes.

FYI: filming ice climbs I've tried those little one time use hand warmer packs and leave them in the camera case next to the battery. Seems to do an ok job for a day out on the ice but 20 days is another issue.

Thank you all again. I truly appreciate the informaton.
Curtis
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Old June 4th, 2007, 07:00 AM   #9
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You don't necessarily have to use microdrives - I just mentioned what I'm using. Sony Memory Sticks are now up to 8 GB capacity, that's more than an hour and a half filming time.
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Old June 7th, 2007, 11:09 AM   #10
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I lived and worked in Antarctica for three years, but never shot anything more than home movies with my Walmart variety Sony. i carried it around in my inner coat pocket and pulled it for "run and gun" shots.

As everyone else said....batteries die very quickly. Keep spares inside your coat next to your torso.

Canada Goose makes large, warm, high quality extreme weather coats. You can fit a fairly large camera underneath if you're willing to live with the discomfort.

Alternatively, as someone else stated, strap a lot of hand warmers to your gear.

I assume that you'll be living in a tent? If so, condensation may not be a large problem. The difference in temperature between the tent and outside will be minimal. Should you be going into the cold and back into a structure at room temperature, then you'll have issues. Dripping moisture (due to frozen breath) from the top of the tent could potentially be a problem, though.

Is it possible to shoot with a DTE drive instead of to tape or is weight and space a prime consideration? I never had a problem with the tape mechanisms in my camera, but then, it was never out in the cold for more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch. The LCD screen, OTH, would die in a matter of minutes...

Anyway, I'm not a pro, but thought that I'd share some cold weather experience.

Hope I helped.
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Old June 7th, 2007, 12:56 PM   #11
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helmet cam??

What about a helmet cam with a cord running to some sort of flash based recording unit. The recording unit could be kept near your body at all times, prolonging that battery life, and avoiding the condensation problem. A cord could be run to the small helmet cam which would be attached to a hat or your shoulder, or even just clipped on your jacked so that you could move it with your hands. I was out filming some skiing in utah earlier this year and met some guys shooting for this movie: http://www.filmtheidea.com/
They were using a similar setup to what I mentioned above. The recording unit was about the size of an ipod, and the video quality seemed quite good.
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Old June 7th, 2007, 04:15 PM   #12
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If the LCD won't work anyway, how about a "lipstick" camera connected to a flash recorder in your pocket. That would keep the LCD out of the cold and you could attach the little camera to your helmet for hands-free use.
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Old June 8th, 2007, 11:38 PM   #13
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High altitude

Hi,

I worked on Mt. Everest shooting video in 2004 and 2006. I also spent a lot of time worrying about how to keep the camera operating, but once I was there I found that was the least of my problems. I used the Sony A1U on my most recent trip, and while I was only working in advanced base camp at 21,000 feet, several of my friends took the same camera to the summit without any problems.
I kept the batteries in my sleeping bag at night. During the day, however, Everest gets warm, even hot, because there is no atmosphere to block the sun's rays. Keeping batteries warm wasn't such an issue. I didn't do a great deal of shooting at night.
In 2004, we destroyed a G4 laptop and an ipod from the altitude. But we found the G3 just keeps on working at 21,000 feet. For power, we daisy-chained three solar panels together and charged up a car battery, which we then plugged into. I never had any problems with the lubricants on the tapes. Everything worked fine.
I found that the biggest problem shooting video at altitude was keeping my oxygen-starved brain working. You get so stupid. Its very easy to fail to get the shots you need.
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Old June 9th, 2007, 08:24 AM   #14
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"I found that the biggest problem shooting video at altitude was keeping my oxygen-starved brain working. You get so stupid. Its very easy to fail to get the shots you need."

Ditch the camera and bring more oxygen! Yall are crazy.
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Old June 9th, 2007, 08:40 AM   #15
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Solar charging/Sony A1U/Lipstick cam

Carolyn - charging a car battery sounds like some rather large solar panels. We're moving a lot lighter I believe. Do you recall the brand of panels you used? Also, was the Sony A1U off the shelf or did someone work on the lubricants?
Marcus- Lipstick camera to a flash drive of some kind sounds like a grand idea but I have yet to locate these devices or how to combine them into a working system. Any links would be helpful. Thank you all!!
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