8 Steps to Successful Filmmaking in the Winter

As filmmakers we usually don’t have the option to call off a shoot due to weather. Because of this we have to make both ourselves and our gear ready for the weather. Winter can be especially difficult, but with proper precautions, you can have a successful shoot.

Here are 8 steps to making sure you survive shooting in the winter.

1. Wear the right clothes: You want to be dressed in layers, just as you would if you were skiing or doing other strenuous activities in the winter.

  • Wool or synthetic base layer
  • Wool socks
  • Good insulating layer
  • Insulated waterproof boots
  • Weatherproof pants and jacket
  • Wool hat
  • Liner gloves
  • Weatherproof gloves

2. Carry extra batteries: Your camera’s batteries will not last very long when shooting in the cold. Try to keep spare batteries close to you inside of your jacket. This will keep them warm and ready to go. It’s also a good idea to have a couple spare cellphone battery with you. You don’t want to be stuck in a ditch on the way home from the shoot without a way to call for help.

3. Chemical hand warmers: Hand warmers are very helpful to you and your gear. Some of them have adhesive on them for sticking to things. I have stuck these directly onto battery packs/camera body and they help keep your camera rolling a little bit longer. If it’s super cold, your lcd can freeze. The hand warms will help keep that from happening. You can also place hand warmers in your gloves so when you are done operating, you can quickly heat your hands when you place them back in the gloves.

4. Keep an emergency blanket with you: An emergency blanket can obviously help in an emergency, but they are also great as a barrier between the ground and your gear and serve many other purposes as well. They pack down small and will easily fit in your case.

5. Acclimate the camera: Our first instinct is to take the camera out of the car last, after we’ve prepped our bags and ourselves, but it’s actually good practice to take your camera out first. Keep your camera outside for about 15 minutes to acclimate to the weather before you even turn it on, this will help prevent condensation fogging your lens and viewfinder. Try to keep the camera cold for the day, and when you bring it inside do not bring it back outside before it is COMPLETELY dry. If you bring the gear outside before it is completely dry, it will ice up and clearing off the lens is extremely challenging.

6. Under Expose Your Image: Shooting in snow is difficult not just because it’s all white, but when you lose color you also lose detail with a too-bright white/gray sky. Try to underexpose your image so you can pull more detail out. If your shot is over-exposed, you will more than likely not be able to get that information back. When you think you have perfect exposure, stop down a half to a full stop. Using your histogram and zebras will help judge exposure in these harsh environments.

7. Bring plastic bags: When moving from a cold to warm climate, condensation will build up on your gear. I highly recommend putting your gear in a clear plastic bag and sealing this bag until your gear gets to room temperature. This moisture will gather on the inside of the bag, keeping your camera dry. We also use plastic bags to wrap around the camera when it’s really bad outside. It’s not the prettiest solution, but it can save your camera.

8. Drive a 4WD vehicle: You need to make sure that you can get out of the location you are filming in. I can’t tell you enough how important this was in producing the sample below.

Here is a music video we did in probably one of the worst winter storms I’ve been in.

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