filming frozen

posted by Julia Bates Jan 12, 2017

How do you approach filming in a location that’s -23 degrees Celsius? Usually this would be somewhere a long way from the UK, probably involving penguins.

The interesting challenge we faced was filming at sub-zero temperatures to show off our client’s new warehouse freezer storage facility.

Cameras would respond slowly, batteries would flatten quickly, ice could form in or on the lenses.

Having been avid followers of the BBC’s natural history unit, we turned to the experts. Surely the camera teams filming penguins at the South Pole could provide inspiration after days spent in nature’s natural freezer.

It’s all about the right preparation for kit and for the crew.

The cold would quickly hamper our crew so extremities would need to be protected to avoid frostbite. We kitted ourselves out with specialist cold weather gear, hats, gloves and thermal footwear. We worked quickly in 50 minute bursts with warm up time to minimise risk to crew and had our shots tightly storyboarded.

We shot with a Sony A7 compact camera with prime lenses and a slider which all coped brilliantly. The kit did start to slow down a bit in performance but some patience was all that we needed and keeping a spare battery inside clothing to protect from the biting cold was an absolute must.  Some interesting icicles did form on the kit.

Going in to the freezer would be fine for the kit – but on the way out condensation would be the real issue. Bearing in mind we were filming in the middle of summer.

We used giant vacuum bags to protect the camera kit as we left the freezer, and left them to gradually warm up in stages to the ambient temp outside. The kit recovered completely, and there were no casualties apart from the hand warmers we used in the camera bags to help warm the camera. They froze pretty much instantly – in 11 seconds according to our assistant.

We got our shots, and the client was delighted.  But perhaps funniest of all was that we had to add CGI breath to the shots of people in post-production to make it look more visually cold.

We’re now ready to face our next freezer challenge…

So penguins – we’re ready for you.

See a few of our shots here: