by Raphael Rogers | 17th January 2017
In this talent feature we’re looking at the work of filmmaker Raphael Rogers, who shot an inspiring short film about melting glaciers in Alaska and gives us some useful tips on filming in cold environments. The choice of story elements, the human perspective, filming angles and choice of music caught our attention. (Intro by Sebastian Wöber) A couple of months and on a whim.. we decided to go and experience Alaska. Being the people that we are we always bring our camera gear on trips. You never know what you’ll find in the wild lands of an alien place. Plane tickets this time of year were incredibly cheap, something like $300 roundtrip from LA to Anchorage. That was for a reason. Almost nothing was open as far as tourist expeditions go. And… it was cold. We are filmmakers that live in LA. We do all kinds of productions, from sci-fi shorts to music videos and commercials. Check out Aura’s other work here: www.weareaura.net Filming in Cold Environments – Preparation Preparing ourselves meant many layers of thermals and enough snacks that we could hike a glacier for hours and trudge through mud, water, snow and ice. Also batteries… lots and lots of batteries. You should know that most batteries loose capacity in the cold, so you should also make sure you store them in a way to keep them warm. As a general rule, if your body can take it, most of the time your camera can take it. I’ll go into the details of the gear below and how we made it work, but I learned that if you’re smart about how you use your gear and where you place it, it will work perfectly. The Gear & the Challenges We shot mainly with a Sony A7S II as well as a Sony a6300 on a Beholder DS1 Stabilizer. For drone work we shot with a DJI Phantom 4. Pro tip: We also own the ikan EC1 Beholder – soooooo much better. The A7S and the a6300 never went down in the cold. No issues with batteries or anything of the like. There were a few times with the Phantom when it wouldn’t launch and gave me warnings that the battery was too cold. To fix this I would hold the battery up to the car heater and then launch it after a minute or so. Another tip would be to tuck the batteries inside your coat next to your skin while hiking. Pro tip: For drones, if you’re serious about filming in cold environments, you can get a drone battery heater for the DJI Phantom 3 series. There’s also a DJI inspire 1 battery heater and the new DJI Inspire 2 has self-heating batteries out of the box. Unfortunately there’s no heater for the Phantom 4. Pro tip 2: Do not heat batteries beyond 104°F (40°C) as they might break. The most challenging part of filming in Alaska at this time of year turned out to be the rain rather than the cold. My Phantom handled it fine (not recommended!) but we were all soaked by the time it returned home. And I was constantly wiping the lens! What we learned Honestly, I would take the ikan EC1 Beholder gimbal to get more stabilized shots. I would also rent real crampons when hiking on the glaciers! So slippery. A lot of this was run and gun so being prepared for it was a guessing game. I think we guessed fairly well even though we had to deal with the weather. Post-production was all done in Adobe Premiere, including coloring in Lumetri! I’m a fan of the ease of having it all in one place. Our rock star editor killed it. It was definitely a process figuring out how to handle the issue of climate change without twisting the story in any way. We just wanted to tell a real first person story and I think we accomplished that. The genesis of this film happened on a random road in Seward Alaska and was quite a piece of luck or fate or whatever you want to call it. We didn’t know Rick before we went but it turns out it’s pretty easy to ask someone to tell their story. Most people want to. I hope you enjoy the piece! Do you have experience and more tips on filming in cold environments. Let us know in the comments. Featured video created by: Raphael Rogers, Paul Rennick and Kristin GerhartRead more
by Graham Sheldon | 2nd August 2016
Graham Sheldon, holding a Geiger counter, outside Reactor 4 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. There is something about working in film that makes people take risks. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that there is always someone else standing in the sidelines ready and willing to take your job, or the idea that you can really stand out on the project if you go that extra mile. Whatever the reason, people get hurt while filming all the time. It is the job of the individual and the production to remember this and do everything possible to keep the team safe. During my career as a Producer/DoP, I’ve filmed in radioactive environments (Chernobyl), harsh weather (Alaska in winter) and countries where the politics are not supportive of the production (Cuba). Working in these environments comes with risks, sometimes anticipated and sometimes as complete surprises. So here are 7 tips, gathered from my own shooting experience to stay safe while still getting the shot: 1. Harsh Weather Several years back, I was working in sub zero temperatures in Alaska to film one of the world’s most grueling races: the Iditarod. This dog sled race covers over a thousand miles, and while the race itself is unbelievably challenging, the process of filming is no walk in the park either. Listen to local experts when it comes to clothing, take note of weather reports, and try to solicit advice from other crews that have worked in the area before. I find most people in this profession, myself included, don’t mind answering a few questions over social media about a past shoot. 2. Politics While filming in Cuba with a US based crew, I encountered multiple instances where local politics were interfering with our production. Memory cards would “disappear” from our hotel room and local security forces would constantly hassle our documentary shoot. Before arriving in any country, try to understand the various ideologies at play in local and national governments. Doing your best to navigate local customs and treading lightly will always make your experience a safer one. 3. Work Together Every member of the crew has a duty to keep the shoot a safe one. In a foreign country with a hundred thousand dollars of equipment in the back of your Jeep, you will be a target for someone. Keep a good eye on everyone and everything, and always listen to your local fixer or driver – they know the area better than you. 4. Instinct If the situation feels wrong, chances are it is. Give yourself time to plan escape routes out of potentially dangerous neighborhoods and never move too far away from your vehicle when filming. If you are operating, tell your assistant to face the opposite direction and watch any approaches. Never spend too long in dangerous areas, as it is giving potentially unsavory characters time to spot you and formulate a plan to relieve you of your equipment. Paying for a local security guard to accompany your crew for the day is always recommended. 5. Know Your Surroundings Keeping a good eye on everything around you while still keeping good exposure and focus is an essential skill. Spend ten minutes on YouTube and you’ll find countless videos of camera op’s losing track of their surroundings and face planting the turf. Operating a tricky backwards move with no way to look behind you? Use anyone present, such as an Assistant Cameraperson, to spot you. 6. Animals Having recently been bitten by a wild dog in Ecuador and dealing with the subsequent rabies shots, I find it necessary to include this tip. Take the advice of local fixers and guides when filming in areas with a large wild animal presence. As a last resort, tripods work well to keep the animal back while getting out of the area, and always, always keep a first aid kit in your vehicle. 7. Leave the Camera People always come before equipment. While filming NBC’s “The Island” I had the choice at high tide between drowning/getting beaten up by rocks or leaving the camera. I took the memory card and left the camera. This is a lesson that sometimes is lost on the camera team, but no show or film is worth injury or loss of a life to save equipment. At the end of the day, we are participating in an art form, not trying to save the planet. Weigh your risks according to that principle.Read more
We only send updates about our most relevant articles. No spam, guaranteed! And if you don't like our newsletter, you can unsubscribe with a single click. Read our full opt-out policy here.