Filming in Cold Weather
In earlier Tips I discussed the ins and outs of shooting in blistering heat. To balance this, now some tips about working in cold circumstances.
A good example is filming snow drifting, like Porsche SnowForce in Yakeshi, way up north in Inner Mongolia, China. People there don’t consider -30 as a temperature to stay inside.
On the frozen lakes a fleet of Porsche 911 is happily spinning and drifting around, which is very cool to film, but you need to take a few precautions.
Many people and on-line groups warn about batteries running low quickly, but it’s not that bad in my experience. In cold, they will surely last less long. So keep them warm, near your body (inner pocket of your coat) or with a heat pack (if packed in a bag), until you really need to use them. And bring as many as you can, both batteries and heat packs! The latter ones are also very nice to put in your shoes and pockets.
A thing you will quickly notice when it’s freezing is that you can’t use any touch screens with gloves on, and pushing any camera button becomes difficult. But not wearing gloves makes your fingers go stiff so that isn’t an option. So bring thin but good gloves to keep sensitivity for when you shoot, and thicker ones for the time between. Forget about the touch screen. As you keep it close to your face while shooting your breath will freeze up on the screen leaving it very hard to use for touching or even watching. Rotating the lens ring to focus or zoom can become much harder, take good care of this and don’t force anything. Even auto-focus can “hunt” much longer to find focus, especially if everything around you is snowy white!
If you want to make cool spinning and sliding wheel shots with a small action cam attached to the car, don’t use the sucking cup fixtures that have just one cup. The plastic will become inflexible and the surface of the car is full of ice particles, the camera will easily fall off. The attachments with three cups are much more safe when you take good care attaching. For any action cam, check and clean the lens as often as possible, as snow will freeze to it.
If you are working with a host or other people who need to say some text for your video, prepare it all inside, where it’s warm. Once outside you want to have it done as quickly as possible as people run out of patience quickly at minus thirty! Often you need to shoot that standing still which makes the cold creep up your coat!
Be extra keen on organizing what you bring, go back inside regularly to check your equipment, charge batteries and get it back to normal temperature again.
I’ve been warned about using a drone, as there could be a build up of frosty bits on the propeller blades. But even at -25 degrees I found no real problem with it, just don’t fly far because of shorter battery life. As long as it flies it will keep its own battery warm. Also here, the remote and screen are much more difficult to operate, and there is no way to put your hands in your pockets to warm up a bit as the drone needs constant control.
Finally, it’s good to bring some ND filter, which is a lens attachment to turn down the light input of the camera. You may otherwise get ‘stuttering’ footage in bright snow light because the camera has to use a very quick exposure.
Drink hot tea and happy shooting!