Preparing for Winter

Now that the weather is turning colder, it's time to consider the effects of freezing temperatures on video equipment and offer a few tips that will keep you shooting when both you and your camera would rather be indoors.

You don't have to be working in arctic conditions to have a problem with condensation. Exposing a camera and lens that have been chilling outdoors to a warmer environment, especially if it is also humid, causes the air next to the camera to cool below its dew point; moisture given up by the warm air condenses on the camera's cooler surfaces the same way that frost forms on the inside of a window on a really cold day. Most of this moisture will evaporate as the camera warms up, but sometimes moisture condenses inside the viewfinder and between the elements of the lens. The results are images that look like they've been shot through a fog filter. Sometimes condensation makes its way into the recorder, where moisture sensors will detect it and shut down the tape mechanism.

The best way to avoid condensation problems is to place the camera in an airtight plastic bag before bringing it indoors. Condensation will form on the outside of the bag instead of on (or within) the camera and lens. After a brief wait of perhaps 10 or 15 minutes, the camera should be close enough to room temperature to make it safe to unseal the bag. Leaving the camera on while it is bagged will generate a little extra heat and speed the process.

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. Just remember, the goal is to dry out the camera, not cook it. 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.