Filming in extreme cold weather conditions might be one of the toughest challenges you can face as a filmmaker. The main difference with filming in hot environments, is that the cold will affect the core temperature of your body, but also the mobility of your toes and fingers. Here are my tips for filming in the arctic.

1. Practise with gloves on

Operating your camera with gloves on is inevitable. Practice operating your camera and equipment with gloves on. Avoid touching metals such as aluminium or metal. Plastic, wood or rubber are materials that works better in cold weather conditions in terms of thermal conduction. Metal is a good conductor and will literally make your fingers numb within minutes, even with gloves on.

It’s also one of the reasons why I like working with the Panasonic EVA-1 in Arctic conditions, instead of other professional cinema cameras. The body is strong, made from magnesium alloy, but the outside of the camera is made from durable plastic.

2. Do not breath on your camera

Avoid breathing on your lens(es) or camera. Your exhaled breath is saturated with water and it will create condensation on your equipment. It will eventually freeze and in the worse case, it could melt again and soak your camera.

3. Keep batteries warm

I always keep my spare batteries on the inside of my parka or hard shell, inside a compact case on my chest. The key is to create a micro climate.

4. Do not bring your camera inside a tent

The temperature and humidity levels are completely different in those two environments. A tent with a wood stove will have dry and warm air and a tent without a wood stove will have a lot of moisture in the air. Nevertheless, the contrast with the outside temperature is too big and it will badly affect your camera. Only take your camera inside a tent, if you have an awning or a place where the climate is more or less the same as outside.

5. So where do you leave your camera during the night?

I usually cover my camera with a wool blanket or a small pelt to protect it from ice particles that travel through the air and I leave it outside. If I have a big (pelican) case, I put the entire camera inside the case without disassembling it. I don’t use dry bags because they will become hard and will eventually crack.

Keep in mind that everything will go slower, including yourself. You need to learn how to pace yourself and need more patience than usual. Levelling a tripod becomes difficult, adjusting your aperture will take more time and even getting focus can be a real challenge. The tipping point is around -30 degrees Celcius. At this point, the fluid inside fluid heads and lenses becomes thick and stiff. I’ve experienced situations where I couldn’t even move my focus ring because the entire lens was frozen. Consider using lens warmers to keep your fluid head or lens warm.