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Shooting with ACL in freezing conditions


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#1 Evan Ferrario

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 01:01 PM

I am shooting a short scene next weekend outside in upstate NY. It has been hovering right around freezing and lightly snowing. It will probably be about 4 hours of shooting. I was wondering if there are any precautions I should take to make sure the camera runs good in the cold.

Should I leave the camera in a heated car before shooting. Is the battery getting cold a concern? The reason these solutions don't make sense to me is that the extreme change from Hot to Cold seems more dangerous and problematic.

I ask this question is because I remember reading a post about trouble in the cold, I couldn't find the post but I thought it was an ACL, although it could of been an Aaton.

I have a spare battery and an NPR that I could shoot on if that is a better option. Any tips would be appreciated.
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#2 Scott Bullock

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 05:20 PM

When was the last time the camera had a CLA?

One risk you are taking is having the lubricants in the camera gumming up. If that happens, the camera might start running sluggishly, may not get to speed, or may stop running altogether.

The other problem you'll face is decreased battery life, so have some spare batteries on hand.

If possible, keep the camera in a warmer environment between setups. If you have a barney for the magazines, use it.

I'd have your NPR on hand just in case the ACL fails.

If your camera has been properly maintained and if you've had a CLA not too long ago, you shouldn't experience any problems if you take the proper precautions. Keep the camera warm between setups, use the barney and/or drape it with a wool blanket during takes, and keep your batteries wrapped, as well.

Good luck!
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 05:41 PM

If you keep the camera warm between setups, you'll have to wait for the lens and viewing system to unfog before you shoot. I'd just forge ahead like usual. Keep the batteries warm and have more batteries than usual on hand. A cheap insulated lunchbox is good for that, just put a few handwarmers inside and zip it up with the cable poking out.
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#4 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 05:46 PM

Scott has good pointers. I would suggest, when shooting outside in the cold, (if the battery is small enough) keeping it under your clothes next to your skin, if possible. Take it out to shoot and put it back under your clothes when you're waiting between shots.
Hand warmers could also be taped around the battery to keep it warm.
Before you bring the equipment back inside to the heat, wrap it in plastic bags outside and tie them off. Bring the equipment back inside and you will see the condensation form on the plastic bags, rather than on the equipment. You might have to wait an hour or so until you can un-bag them.
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#5 Scott Bullock

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 06:12 PM

Hi Bernie!

That plastic bag idea is a good one. Living in Colorado, I've shot a lot of cold weather stuff - I wish I'd known about that plastic bag concept a long time ago.

Out of curiosity, what is the temperature range on the (factory) lubricants in an Eclair (ACL and NPR) camera? There are special lubricants for extreme cold and extreme heat, correct?
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#6 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 06:58 PM

That's correct Scott. Normally, when going into extreme cold, all the standard lube is cleaned out of camera. mags and lenses. This is replaced with very low viscosity synthetic lubrication. I have the original Eclair lubrication from the factory, and should have enough 'till they plant me.
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#7 Evan Ferrario

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 04:48 PM

Well we shot the scene on friday night from about midnight to 3 am. It was probably around 10-15 degrees fahrenheit but I didn't have a thermometer to check.

I kept the camera outside in an open trunk and kept the battery inside the car between takes. Towards the end of the shoot, I had the battery outside for about 45 mins straight and the sync light started to blink lightly. I switched batteries and it worked fine for another half hour before starting to blink again. By then I was just shooting some B roll so it was fine to stop.

I guess the cold made the batteries go dead fairly fast but other than that, the camera worked great.

The one problem I did have was shooting another part of the short. It was a scene where I followed a character inside a house from the outside. Once inside the warm house, the lens started to fog from the change of temperature. I didn't notice what it was until after the shot, but I'm not sure how quickly the lens started to fog and if I can use the shot. I found it was best to let the camera either warm up or cool down to it's shooting environment.

I didn't use the NPR because the ACL worked great. Also the ACL is Ultra 16 so I wanted to get it all in that format. Having the 400 foot magazine, took me a while to track that down, was a big help with the ACL as well. I shot 2400 feet total but usually I shot one roll per scene and didn't have to stop to reload the film.

Sent the film off to cinelab and I am hoping for the best results, i probably will have a few reshoots but overall I think the camera worked great. This was the first large project I've shot on my acl.
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#8 Bernie O'Doherty

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 06:35 PM

Glad it worked out. You could adjust the storyline to say there was fog inside the house !

Best for the Holidays.
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