The approach of winter is a good time to review some of our favorite tips on keeping videographers and their gear fully functional despite the cold.
- •When temperatures dip below freezing, the amount of power available from batteries drops as well. Power packs that normally provide 60 minutes of shooting time may run out of juice after only 30 minutes when cold. Keep the power flowing by keeping your batteries warm before use. Store them in the heated passenger compartment of your vehicle or an insulated container if they’ll be in an unheated trunk. That little cooler that you use to keep your drinks cold in hot weather will help keep your batteries warm in cold weather.
- •Extend cold weather shooting time by swapping batteries frequently. Keep your spare battery warm in your pocket or under your coat and, instead of waiting until the low battery indicator begins to flash, switch between them so the battery powering the camera never has time to get too cold.
- •Covering your camera will retard heat loss. Wind has the same effect on a camera as it does on your skin, hastening the loss of heat by super-chilling the exposed surface. A form-fitted camera cover or rain shell will help batteries and tape transports perform efficiently.
- •Don’t forget to insulate your own body as well. Covering your head and wearing thick-soled insulated boots makes it a lot easier to work in sub-freezing conditions. Ditch those fancy thin leather, silk or nylon “shooters’ gloves” and keep your fingers from freezing with thicker gloves made from thinsulate or another synthetic material that packs a bit of air into the weave. Thinsulate glove liners worn under mittens with tips that peel back to expose the fingers are a perfect sub-zero combination.
- •You don’t have to be working in arctic conditions to have a problem with condensation. Exposing a cold-soaked camera to a warm and cozy environment causes moisture to condense on the camera’s cooler surfaces. Most of this moisture will evaporate as the camera warms to room temperature, but the wait for condensation inside the viewfinder, tape transport, or between lens elements can stop a shoot cold in its tracks.
The best way to avoid condensation problems is to place a cold camera in an airtight plastic bag before bringing it indoors. Condensation will form on the outside of the bag instead of on the camera and lens. After a wait of perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, the camera should be close enough to room temperature to make it safe to unseal the bag.
If the condensation gremlin has already struck, a gentle stream of air from a hair dryer set to low heat will help chase the humidity away. To avoid damage, the air directed at the camera and lens should be no warmer than you can tolerate on the back of your hand. Remember, the goal is to dry out the camera, not cook it.