Today was the coldest day of winter so far in Toronto a brisk -15 with the windchill. Though that might be mild by some Canadian standards it made me think of a few tricks I’ve learned over the years for filming in the cold.
1. Fogging lenses
Just like eye glasses, camera lens fog up when moving from a cold to a warm environment due to condensation. This happened to me all the time because I’d be filming outside and take the camera with me when I went inside to warm up. Now I leave the camera outside (preferably in a locked vehicle) between takes.
If you have to film inside after being outside, you can put your camera in a large zip-lock bag, allowing it to warm up to the ambient temperature before removing it. For video cameras, I just use my camera bag, zipped up tight. It’s might take a while to warm up though, so where possible shoot indoors first, then head out into the cold.
2. Battery Life
As this chart shows (credit mpoweruk.com) battery life is reduced the colder it gets. I would suggest the the drop is even more dramatic. At 20-30 degrees below zero I’m lucky to get 75% out of my batteries.
The answer would seem to be to keep your batteries warm until you need them. The problem with this is that warm batteries + cold camera = condensation (water). Water + internal electronics = big $$$
I’d recommend keeping all your equipment the same temperature where possible. That goes for memory cards as well. Just bring a few extra batteries to play it safe.
3. Frost bite
As a cameraperson, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve practically frozen off my fingers filming in the cold. This is of course because it’s difficult, if not impossible to operate most cameras with gloves on, so you’re constantly taking them off and putting them on until you say “screw it” and just shove your hands in your pockets.
Luckily we now have “Magic Gloves” (and similar brands) that are warm and still allow you to use touch screens. They’re great for cameras, external monitors or for the odd Tweet/FB update while filming. They’re also super cheap. I bought 2 pairs for $3 at the Dollar Store.
Finally, don’t forget the benefit of dressing in layers, because there’s nothing like lugging around a fully loaded tripod to warm you up 😉