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what works and what doesn't on coldest days

Frederic Chamberland

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I just finished operating 2 days on a frozen lake . Winds of 30/35 miles . Temperature below -20 celcius . Some of the coldest days we have had here in Quebec this winter.

This was by far the coldest day operating ever for me and I have been working in the film business for 24 years . Great opportunity to see what fails and what doesn't : here is my list :

progpi sled/arm : not a glitch

preston Hu3/mdr2/dm2 : couple of hicups from motors , warm them up 5 minutes with radiant heater and they go back to work .

arri alexa Xt with codex cards : not a glitch

paralinx arrowX with array antenna : not a glitch

smallHD HBDP7 PRO: both menu buttons (top corner) stopped clicking after 10 minutes outside.

That was a problem . Could not access menu . Tried flipping the image going low mode and finally flipped it in camera . Hot keys (rubber buttons on the sides) still worked .

Image was lagging a bit but so was the 1ac's transvideo .

anton bauer batteries : left in the cold more than 30minutes; they became useless. We had like 16 dionic hd for the camera . At one point , I had to plug in a VCLX block .

hawk vlites lenses : heated lenses cases were life saviors : essential for such days.

We also used a custom made heated donut that was velcroed around the barrel of the lenses on the sled (powered by the batteries at the bottom of the sled , that's the cable you see on the picture hanging in front of the sled )

cinetape , horns stopped working , heat them up and back to life .

cables : only preston and cinecoil seem to have found the receipe for sub zero cables : every other cable could have snapped in a heartbeat if handled to furiously .

That's it for that particular job .

Now time for another hot coco .

Fly safe and heated



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I have been doing a good deal of night exteriors here in NY the past few years. I known it's not the coldest place on the planet but it is often full nights in the teens with very pleasant gusts bringing well below zero. I just put on the green screen (tb6) whenever it is below 35 because the few lcd's I have owned are too high maintence. I am sure some are better than others. As you said all the GPI stuff works flawlessly. Even though I prefer the Klassen much of the year, I use my pro vest in the cold months because it is just easier to deal with. Batteries also go fast and gyros take forever to get up to speed so allow twice the usual time.

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Brutal! I understand how the freezing cold would make some electronics fail and cables become brittle, but what do you think caused the actual delay in the video signal?


The cold temperature freezes the liquid crystal in the LCD, and so they don't switch on and off quickly enough. You get a ghosty, laggy image. You start noticing it below 0C, and below -10C it's not really usable. Always a problem here in Canada. But OLEDs...that's the way to go in the cold! Obviously not daybright or appropriate for sleds, but for assistants...it's had no issues with temperature.

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A couple years ago I worked a few days on a feature that also shot on a frozen lake (in Northern Ontario), where temps were around -25C, and windchill brought it down to minus mid-thirties. The regular crew did three weeks on a frozen lake; I don't know how they did it. But the guys had these heated belts/blanket things that they wrapped on the back of video village monitors to keep them warm. Assistant LCD monitors had these insulated shade things to keep them warm; not sure if they put hot pockets in those too. Had to use old-school chalk slates; dry erase doesn't work. They had these Pelican sleds they put lens and camera cases in...just dragged along the ice (instead of carts). Block batteries were in insulated bags. Cold performance was a factor in lens selection; Fujinon zooms worked fine, I think Cookes seized up in testing.


I was told a story of one day they were shooting in sideways-blizzard conditions; they put a b-glass in the mattebox, and when it got too obscured they'd pull it halfway through the take and keep shooting!


Mike Heathcote was the B-camera/steadicam operator on that show; I'm sure he's got lots of stories to share...

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I don't know much about operating in the inhumane cold, but I am wondering about condensation in the lenses. did they stay warm enough between the case and the sled to prevent condensation?


how thick is that ice on the lake? maybe it's just the south in me, but the idea of operating over that is inserting, and then a group of yall on a go cart?! I couldn't trust it as far as I could throw it. bad ass, dude.

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I just finished a show that shot out in this very cold NYC winter. Power is a lot like Ron's gig on POI. We are out side a lot, day, night, snow, high winds etc. This past February was the coldest month in NYC since the Great Depression.


Steadi Gear


All PRO/XCS sled worked flawlessly, as did my PRO Titan and G70 arms. Ron is right the Klassen is a bit of a PITA in the cold do to it size and the thick frozen pads. That being said I still use it. I just keep is on as much as possible and suffer other wise.

My Cinetronic gen 2 also performed with out issue in the cold as did my preston, the arri alexa, cooke S4s, Anginieux zooms, Box transmitter, etc.


The AC's always handled the Lens well, getting them inside or out quick to adjust to the Temp change. We kept batteries on the chargers in warming tents or on the Truck if needed.


cold weather gear

REI insulated over-pants - can't live with out them. they are the best

850 Down EMS Belay Jacket - ditto

All my other gear is Patagonia and Icebreaker. On the coldest days I where my Patagonia Jacket over the Belay jacket while sitting on the dolly. In the rig so far a fleece, the belay jacket, over pants, Icebreaker base layer, icebreaker Chute, and Carhartt Wool Beenie/Tuque have been good down to 4'F with 60 MPH wind gusts.


Now the shoes

I have 5 levels of shoe

1) everyday steadicam shoe ASIC GEL NIMBUS (7 thru)16

2) wet warm KEENs

3) wet warm down to 32 degrees Vasque Breeze GTX hiking boots

4) Sorel Conquest boot 32'F down to 19'F

5) Baffin Polar series Impact boot - they are too warm to wear above 25'F. They are big bulky but comfortable for their size. And they were exhausting to wear while doing a 4 minute walk and talk along the ice and snow covered jogger's path along the central park reservoir in the above 4'f with 60 MPH wind guts. Boy did that suck. No Gyro - sound, not enough room for Antlers. we all struggled thru it. A grip was blown into frame, one of the actor almost got knocked over by the wind, But with some long lens coverage the editors will save the day. I hope.

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