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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
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Old December 28th, 2009, 06:26 PM   #1
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Advice for EX1's Upcoming Trip to Siberia

Well, not Siberia, but darn close and just as bone-chilling cold! I'm leaving on 1/1 for the Ice Festival in Harbin, China...producing a travel/reality show for a cable-net. They build an entire city out of ice...castles, pagodas, monuments, etc. It's an amazing sight! I've never shot in such extreme conditions before (-24C high with -45C windchill. Ouch! They're not paying me enough!!).

I'd really like to hear from some pros who've braved such extremes with their EX1s. Right off the frozen top, my concerns are:

1. Camera functionality in sub-zero conditions?
2. PortaBrace's Polar Cover...just bought one-has anyone used it? Thoughts?
3. Tripod or Monopod? I've read stories of frozen fluid heads. Is it worth even lugging sticks when a monopod might suffice?
4. Personal protection from the elements? Must haves re. extreme weather gear/clothes?
5. Workflow suggestions for the frozen tundra?

Any thoughts/advice would be "warmly" welcomed and greatly appreciated! Thank you!! I'll be sure to post a post-shoot recap. Stay tuned...
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Old December 28th, 2009, 09:07 PM   #2
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The Polar pack is great. I have been using it on everything from Beta to EX3's.

Bring lots of Iron Oxide heat packs. I tape them to the battery in extreme cold. And I never turn the cam off when in the cold, that keeps it warm, inside the Polar pack. I use Miller Solo sticks and heads they work well in the cold, you can tape heat packs to the head if it gets sticky.

The secret to staying warm is no cotton, lots of layers, good shoes and keep your head warm, wool and fleece, thermal underwear not cotton. If your fingers get cold use the heat packs in your gloves. Take good care of yourself, don't get wet feet.

Remember a cold camera will fog up when you enter a warm humid environment, so bring some large plastic bags to put the cameras in until they warm up.

Enjoy.

Last edited by Olof Ekbergh; December 29th, 2009 at 07:25 AM.
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Old December 29th, 2009, 01:47 AM   #3
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I've done high altitude shoots in the Himalayas a few times, but not with the EX.
Being tapeless should provide a real advantage. Often it's the tape transport mechanism that fails in extreme cold.
Be sure to keep your spare batteries in an inside pocket.
Minus 24 F calls for windproof down parka on top of a 200 weight fleece jacket with some lighter non cotton layers under that.
Also think about down mittens that fit over lighter insulated gloves. You can pull the gloved hand out to make camera adjustments & put the mit back on to focus & punch the record button.
A fleece or "Turtle" neck gaiter & face mask are good too.
Feet: I recently saw an ad by one of the major outdoor boot companies announcing the integration of a rechargable heating element into one of their insulated boots- just like you can get for ski boots. Price was around $200- could be priceless @ -24F. Use heavy wool socks- Smartwool is one good brand.
At those extreme tempratures, it's not just an issue of comfort; you can get seriously injured from frostbite pretty quickly.
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Last edited by Robert Young; December 29th, 2009 at 11:55 AM.
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Old December 29th, 2009, 02:27 AM   #4
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My experience with extreme cold in the Himalayas or when ice climbing in the alps is that you never have problems if you can avoid getting wet. When it gets really cold it is usually very dry, that's an advantage.
Buy Sorel boots, keep your head warm and find a way to swap from mittens to light gloves. And yes, no cotton.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old December 29th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #5
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I have used EX's down to -36c without any major issues. The LCD gets sluggish but soon warms up. Below -20c some camera covers can become brittle and shatter and most fluid heads will freeze unless they have been winterised or re-greased with low temperature grease. Some of the plastics used in cheaper tripods become brittle and breaks easily. Don't touch any metal parts with bare skin, it burns and you can end up stuck to the metal. The EX batteries work remarkably well in the cold only loosing around 50% of their capacity. Keep batts in inner jacket pockets when not in use. A polarbear or fleece camera cover will help the camera stay warm as will hand warmers. Avoid taking the camera indoors to a warm place from the cold outside. You will get condensation problems. When you do have to take it indoors put it in a sealed bag such as a large ziplock bag or bin liner and leave it in the bag until it has warmed up. This will limit the amount of moisture that can condense onto the camera.

Beware of putting your face against a cold viewfinder, it can stick to your skin and removal in front of the rest of the crew is painful and embarrassing ;-0

For you, all the advice already given is good. I would stress that you buy the best winter boots you can afford. It's easy to add layers to legs, body and arms, but if your boots are cold you could end up with frostbite. I have military issue arctic boots with a waterproof, heat reflecting foil lined outer and a removable hollow fiber insulated liner. The removable liner makes them easier to dry out. Mittens with thin gloves are an essential in extreme cold.

Know the signs of frostbite and frostnip. Any numbness, tingling, loss of sensitivity or pain in extremities must be taken seriously, watch you ears and nose, you often won't notice them becoming frozen especially if doing any kind of exercise or activity which will make you feel warm. Some kind of full face protection is a must.
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Old December 29th, 2009, 09:14 AM   #6
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And other practical issues-- with the clamp-down in airline security, make certain that you are not exceeding your carrier's carry-on limit. China is a carnet country, so you might consider whether you would want to go the carnet route to avoid any potential problems. I would go for monopod myself and possibly some kind of small rig like the DVMultiRig.

Good luck. I'm jealous. Sounds like a wonderful gig, despite the cold!

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Old January 2nd, 2010, 08:28 PM   #7
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Sounds like an awesome shoot! Here are some ideas:

1. Camera functionality in sub-zero conditions?
Fine - it will condense it brought into warm, humid air so once cold, keep it cold. I've shot in Norway and Antarctica up to -40oC and it's been no problem. It lives outside my tent at all times in a Peli case, just the cards and batteries come inside. Batties die earlier, but stilll are superb. Lens can become stiffer and LCD sluggish, but otherwise ok.

2. PortaBrace's Polar Cover...just bought one-has anyone used it? Thoughts?
Superb item. Damn hard to operate a camera for all-day, every-day though because you can't see anything. It keeps the cam warm and more importantly you hands from getting frost bite when operating for 12 hours a day. It's vital, if not of the camera, but for your career - frost bite to fingers = get a new job!

3. Tripod or Monopod? I've read stories of frozen fluid heads. Is it worth even lugging sticks when a monopod might suffice?
I used a Miller DS20 and it's been a dream - you can't wreck it.

4. Personal protection from the elements? Must haves re. extreme weather gear/clothes?
Layers, layers and more layers. Thermal merino wool undies, down jackets and trousers, lots of gloves and mits - so you can change gloves if they get wet / sweaty. Take the camera into the shop to try out the gloves. Buy several pairs in case you loose them or the velcro wears them out (it will in the end). Lots of hats and warm socks and proper boots with at least two linings (such as Baffin Boots). If you get at all cold, stop shooting and fix yourself. Frost bite can take hold very fast indeed and your own safety is always more important than a film project.

5. Workflow suggestions for the frozen tundra?
Several hard disks (you'll break some), triplicate your rushes at least. MacBookPros are atrocious in cold conditions. They are hell to keep going off a solar panel because they need their own nuclear power station to run them. Their hard disks hate working in the cold too. Their own battery won't give or receive power a lot of the time if it's cold too. All in all, they are a heavy waste of your baggage allowance. Take a cheap and cheerful EasyPc or similar - all it needs to do is copy Expresscard (SxS) to USB HD afterall and possibly allow you to play with Clip Browser...

---
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Old January 3rd, 2010, 03:39 AM   #8
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For the workflow I wouldn't take a PC or computer. I used to take a NetBook and that did work fine, but it's still a bulky solution needing a charger etc. I would try to buy/hire/borrow a NextoDI NVS2500. This will go in a jacket pocket so can be kept warm inside your coat. It will run from the supplied mains adapter, a USB type charger or 12v so any car or most snow scooters should be able to run it. The internal battery will run it for around an hour which is enough time to backup a dozen 16Gb cards. For multiple backups you can plug an external USB drive into the Nexto to make a clone of the internal drive or to make sync copies. It's also much faster than a laptop.
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