Cinematography POSTS

Don’t Let Mother Nature Ruin Your Shoot!

Shooting in Extreme Cold Weather

If you will be working in extreme cold weather situations for an extended period, leave the camera equipment in the camera truck at night so that it remains at a consistent cold temperature throughout the production. If it is necessary to bring the camera equipment inside after being in a cold camera truck overnight, warm it up as quickly as possible so that condensation does not form. Open all lens, filter, magazine, and accessory cases so they can reach room temperature. Remove all lens caps to help the lenses warm up and to eliminate condensation.

Whenever possible, obtain the appropriate size barney for the camera and magazines so that you can protect them as much as possible from the cold. Also, be sure to let the rental house know if you will be doing any extended filming in cold weather. They may need to add a special heater element or change the lubricant in the camera to one that is better suited to the cold.

Photo by Nina Matthews

You should also keep in mind that the film stock can become very brittle in cold temperatures and should be used as soon as possible after you have removed it from the manufacturer’s sealed can. You may want to keep loaded magazines in a warm, dry location until ready for filming, but sometimes it is actually better to keep loaded magazines in the same environment and temperature that you will be shooting in. I worked on a music video that was shot in Boulder, Colorado, in late November. We were filming outside using an Arriflex 16 SR2 camera. At the DP’s request I loaded all of the magazines, placed them in their case, and kept them outside with us during shooting. There were no problems with film breaking during shooting because it wasn’t going from one temperature to another, which could actually cause more problems than keeping the film in the temperature at which you are filming. In any case, use your best judgment and always consult with the DP if you are unsure.

Shooting in Extreme Heat

Film stock may deteriorate very quickly if it is subjected to very high heat for even short periods of time. When working in extreme heat, you should have coolers or some other type of insulated container to keep the film in. Film should be kept in the cooler or insulated container in a cool, dry location whenever possible. You should never place ice in the cooler because any melting ice could seep into the film and damage it. In addition, you should process any film as soon as possible after it has been exposed.

Photo by Expert Infantry

Filming in or Around Salt Water and Camera and Magazine Fall into the Water

Before taking any equipment from the rental house, and you know that you will be filming around salt water, ask them what you should do if any of the equipment falls into the water. The following procedure is the accepted method, but you should check with the rental house beforehand just to be safe. First, rinse the camera and equipment completely in fresh water as soon as possible. Don’t worry about getting the camera wet. It’s already wet from the salt water. Salt water is highly corrosive and can damage the working parts of the camera very quickly. The faster it is removed, the fewer problems you may have. Don’t allow a fully loaded magazine of film to dry. Rinse off the magazine completely, with the film still inside, and if possible ship the entire magazine, packed in fresh water, to the lab for processing. I was once told a story about a 1000-ft magazine containing a full roll of exposed film that had fallen into salt water. The assistant immediately removed the magazine from the salt water, immersed it in a cooler of fresh water, and sent it to the lab packed in the fresh water. The lab was able to process the film, and there was very little, if any, damage to the image.

Excerpt from The Camera Assistant’s Manual: 6th Edition by David E. Elkins, SOC © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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