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Rasmus Frostell

Winter tips & tricks as an AC?

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Hi,

 

Winter is slowly but surely coming. What are your fellow AC's best tricks for shooting in the winter? Any must know tips and tricks? Good gloves for pulling focus etc.

Also! I read somewhere that you can use Cilica Gel bags near the lens in humid conditions. Does this work when moving between warm interior and cold exteriors in below 0 circumstances as well?

 

I've been AC'ing for a while but always strive to get better!

 

Thanks!

/Rasmus

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Best tip is to overwork yourself through summer and fall so you can take the winter off, but maybe not realistic.

 

One idea that I want to test this winter is using usb powered heated scarves in a number of ways. You can find these things on amazon and they work very simply off any battery with a usb output. Applications that I want to test include keeping batteries and mags warm on camera and in the case, besides the obvious personal warmth applications.

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Hot bacon sandwich in the morning !.. batteries in jacket pocket works if you're running around.. leave enough time for lenses/camera to acclimatize from cold to hot..... or have lenses and another camera body for inside only.. there are gloves made for stills photography that are slim but warm and have little grip pads at the finger ends.. in the UK back in the day some people used pocket warmers too... or .. become a sound recordist and spend your winters in the Caribbean relaxing on your yacht .. the only ice is in the Gin and Tonic..

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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I was 1st AC on a tv drama which was set in Finnish Lapland in wintertime and we shot there for three months, mostly exteriors. I did some homework about the subject back then, here are some tips which I found helpful.

 

-The main think is to keep your batteries warm: if they get too cold they drop charge and will not recharge before warming up. We did this by having the batteries (when not in camera) in Styrofoam boxes used by the catering companies and opening the lids only when necessary. One big box (like this https://www.amazon.co.uk/Insulated-Styrofoam-Polystyrene-Gastrobox-Transport/dp/B01DAI5MQ0 )for all the chargers and one smaller (these https://www.etola.net/Tuote/keittio/kylmalaukut/epp-termo-1-4gn-15-l) for full batteries. One small box was also for Anton Bauer Cine VCLX block battery, just cut a hole for the power cable. The chargers keep the big case warm and no additional heating is required.

 

-If a battery gets too cold and won't charge it's good to have a way to warm it up. We had a car fridge similar to this https://www.amazon.com/Fridge-Refrigerator-Cooler-Dual-use-Household/dp/B06W9JFSJT and used the heating function to warm things up. Don´t have it on all the time, put the cold battery in and then turn it on: the temperature will rise steadily, you shouldn't warm up the battery too quickly or too high temperature.

 

-For cameras we had Porta Brace POL -series cold weather covers (https://www.portabrace.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=POL) The heat generated by the camera (and especially the Teradek Bolt video transmitter, it runs hot) kept things warm and no additional heating was needed. If you don't have access to these you can use a rain cover, it will keep at least some of the warmth near the camera.

 

-Know your lenses! For example Zeiss High/Super Speeds have lubrication oils which make the lens barrels very stiff and in some cases impossible for the lens motor to turn. If you use vintage lenses check from your rental house if they can change the lubrication to a sort which doesn't freeze up, or do some testing if your lenses get sluggish. The High/Super Speeds are constructed in a way that the front element moves, and a clip on mattebox adds weight which the lens motor has to turn. To make sure it might be better to use rod mounted matteboxes with this kind of lenses.Modern lenses rarely have these problems. We had Leica Summicrons and didn't experience any problems because of the cold.

 

-Remove heat sinks from your equipment if possible, for example TV Logic monitors. One way to keep your monitors warm (and not have the picture lagging) in the extreme cold is to get some cheap foam camping mat (like https://www.amazon.com/ALPS-Mountaineering-Foam-Camping-Mat/dp/B006H1Z18M )hot glue gun and gaffer's tape. Cut the foam to have a box without a lid, and then you push it to the back of the monitor. Make it snug enough and you won't need anything to hold it, it will stay. The warmth generated by the monitor will keep the unit warm. You can do these boxes for other things as well, I did them for Movi Pro batteries when they are installed to the Movi.

 

-The silica gel packs you mentioned are handy at the end of the day, when the lenses are cold as ice: You remove the front and back caps from the lenses, throw a couple of the silica gel packs to the lens case and leave the lid open just slightly for the night. You don't want the temperature change too quickly and have condensation build up to the lenses.mIf you are in a situation where you have to move from very cold outdoors to indoors to shoot, try to get the lenses, filters (remember to open the caps and filter pouches) and camera inside as soon as you can, aftet that start taking in rest of the gear. You wan't the lenses to warm up as soon as possible. Usually in these situations you have no choice but to warm up lenses quickly, which is why you should have a travel hair dryer in you AC kit.

 

-Ultrasonic distance meters: For example the Cinetape starts to give false readings when used in very cold (from -15c to -30c) for a time. Things get stiff inside the sensor unit and the reading starts to travel, at first just from a centimeter, to for example 15 centimeters. Cinematography Electronics say that the Cinetape compensates the temperature, but I suspect there is a limit to this and they didn't take in to account that their product would be used in something like -25c... Arri UDM-1 takes the cold better, I suspect because of the more robust construction of the sensor unit. Cine RT Focusbug seems to compensate for the cold and works well in freezing conditions, well done Canadians!

 

A solution which I have used with the Cinetape and UDM-1 is to have a disposable hand warmer Bongo tied to the sensor unit, demonstrated here in making of photo from Steven Sodenbergh's The Knick. It will work for some hours, longer if you construct an insulation box from foam which i talked earlier.

21iqh.jpg

 

 

Hope you find something helpful here and good luck!

Edited by Matti Poutanen
  • Upvote 1

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I was 1st AC on a tv drama which was set in Finnish Lapland in wintertime and we shot there for three months, mostly exteriors. I did some homework about the subject back then, here are some tips which I found helpful.

 

-The main think is to keep your batteries warm: if they get too cold they drop charge and will not recharge before warming up. We did this by having the batteries (when not in camera) in Styrofoam boxes used by the catering companies and opening the lids only when necessary. One big box (like this https://www.amazon.co.uk/Insulated-Styrofoam-Polystyrene-Gastrobox-Transport/dp/B01DAI5MQ0 )for all the chargers and one smaller (these https://www.etola.net/Tuote/keittio/kylmalaukut/epp-termo-1-4gn-15-l) for full batteries. One small box was also for Anton Bauer Cine VCLX block battery, just cut a hole for the power cable. The chargers keep the big case warm and no additional heating is required.

 

-If a battery gets too cold and won't charge it's good to have a way to warm it up. We had a car fridge similar to this https://www.amazon.com/Fridge-Refrigerator-Cooler-Dual-use-Household/dp/B06W9JFSJT and used the heating function to warm things up. Don´t have it on all the time, put the cold battery in and then turn it on: the temperature will rise steadily, you shouldn't warm up the battery too quickly or too high temperature.

 

-For cameras we had Porta Brace POL -series cold weather covers (https://www.portabrace.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=POL) The heat generated by the camera (and especially the Teradek Bolt video transmitter, it runs hot) kept things warm and no additional heating was needed. If you don't have access to these you can use a rain cover, it will keep at least some of the warmth near the camera.

 

-Know your lenses! For example Zeiss High/Super Speeds have lubrication oils which make the lens barrels very stiff and in some cases impossible for the lens motor to turn. If you use vintage lenses check from your rental house if they can change the lubrication to a sort which doesn't freeze up, or do some testing if your lenses get sluggish. The High/Super Speeds are constructed in a way that the front element moves, and a clip on mattebox adds weight which the lens motor has to turn. To make sure it might be better to use rod mounted matteboxes with this kind of lenses.Modern lenses rarely have these problems. We had Leica Summicrons and didn't experience any problems because of the cold.

 

-Remove heat sinks from your equipment if possible, for example TV Logic monitors. One way to keep your monitors warm (and not have the picture lagging) in the extreme cold is to get some cheap foam camping mat (like https://www.amazon.com/ALPS-Mountaineering-Foam-Camping-Mat/dp/B006H1Z18M )hot glue gun and gaffer's tape. Cut the foam to have a box without a lid, and then you push it to the back of the monitor. Make it snug enough and you won't need anything to hold it, it will stay. The warmth generated by the monitor will keep the unit warm. You can do these boxes for other things as well, I did them for Movi Pro batteries when they are installed to the Movi.

 

-The silica gel packs you mentioned are handy at the end of the day, when the lenses are cold as ice: You remove the front and back caps from the lenses, throw a couple of the silica gel packs to the lens case and leave the lid open just slightly for the night. You don't want the temperature change too quickly and have condensation build up to the lenses.mIf you are in a situation where you have to move from very cold outdoors to indoors to shoot, try to get the lenses, filters (remember to open the caps and filter pouches) and camera inside as soon as you can, aftet that start taking in rest of the gear. You wan't the lenses to warm up as soon as possible. Usually in these situations you have no choice but to warm up lenses quickly, which is why you should have a travel hair dryer in you AC kit.

 

-Ultrasonic distance meters: For example the Cinetape starts to give false readings when used in very cold (from -15c to -30c) for a time. Things get stiff inside the sensor unit and the reading starts to travel, at first just from a centimeter, to for example 15 centimeters. Cinematography Electronics say that the Cinetape compensates the temperature, but I suspect there is a limit to this and they didn't take in to account that their product would be used in something like -25c... Arri UDM-1 takes the cold better, I suspect because of the more robust construction of the sensor unit. Cine RT Focusbug seems to compensate for the cold and works well in freezing conditions, well done Canadians!

 

A solution which I have used with the Cinetape and UDM-1 is to have a disposable hand warmer Bongo tied to the sensor unit, demonstrated here in making of photo from Steven Sodenbergh's The Knick. It will work for some hours, longer if you construct an insulation box from foam which i talked earlier.

21iqh.jpg

 

 

Hope you find something helpful here and good luck!

 

Thank you Matti! Exactly the types of tricks i was looking for! Do you find the preston or WCU-4 better in the cold? Have you tried just increasing the motor torque for older lenses in cold conditions? And regarding the zeiss / HS or SS. A trick i usually do for the mattebox is that i take off the outer part of the mattebox, only using the backplate and filter array holders. Then the wireless follow focus usually manage the weight.

 

Best,

Rasmus

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Thank you Matti! Exactly the types of tricks i was looking for! Do you find the preston or WCU-4 better in the cold? Have you tried just increasing the motor torque for older lenses in cold conditions? And regarding the zeiss / HS or SS. A trick i usually do for the mattebox is that i take off the outer part of the mattebox, only using the backplate and filter array holders. Then the wireless follow focus usually manage the weight.

 

Best,

Rasmus

I have no experience of Preston besides just a quick try in the rental houses so I can´t say! But I have never had any preotection for the WCU-4 hand unit in any temperature and it has always worked well.

 

I tend to use the motors with full torque with all cine lenses (I take it down only if working with cameras / lenses with more plastic in them, like Sony FS7 or A7S, Blackmagic etc) as I feel the motor responds a bit quicker then.

 

Zeiss High Speeds (especially the 18 and 21) get so stiff that the barrell is difficult to turn even if you take the lens to your hand and turn it!

 

It´s a good idea to take the outer part off, but problematic if you need to get rid of unwanted flares.

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I am currently shooting in kujjuaq and the temperature this morning was -40.

My setup goes like this:

Alexa mini

Mdr2 w/dm1

Teradek 600

High speeds

Mmb1

 

I feel like the mini is holding up well. But the HS are really stiff. Thanks to the DM1 motors I am not sure that any arri motor would have work as good in here.

 

I wrap the camera with an emergency blanket (aluminum on one side and matte green on the other) and I feel like it is helping a lot.

 

The biggest issue so far is the evf freezing and it seems that hot shots will not help that much. I think that the tvlogic058 is saving us on this one.

 

My best discovery on this shoot is aluminum tape. It sticks really well and makes everything snug and clean. From now on I will always have aluminium tape with me on cold shots.

 

Batteries are draining a bit faster than usual but thanks to the new anton bauer xt150 we can shoot 1:30 before having to switch batteries. We are on a documentary style setup so we dont carry any VCLX and the batteries are holding up real nice so far.

 

Have fun and always keep gloves on your hands no matter what because at this temperature your skin will burn of you touch any metal with your bare hands .

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