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3hrs of skiing from a snowmobile


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#1 Ants Martin Vahur

Ants Martin Vahur

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 03:38 PM

Hi all!
So after being 8 years! a very active passive member (reading a lot of the posts) of this great forum I finally put down my very first post. Hopefully many others will follow.

I thought that in 8 years of steadicam operating I have finally come to something that is worth mentioning here. So..

Next week I'll be steadicam operating an international skiing TV transmission in Estonia which is the skiing marathon 63km-s! in length. And I will be following (or precede) the whole show on the snowmobile with the steadicam hard mounted to it. There's another steadicam operator doing the same thing, following other groups.
We both have tv links transmitted to the helicopter flying above us.
So my main concern of course is the weather because it'll be around -8 degrees in Celsius. Plus the wind which is a very big factor (moving vehicle), even bigger then the temperature.

So I would like to know from you guys, who you have had any similar experience, to give me some advice how to improve my comfort and how to survive!
Well obviously the main thing is to clothe properly. Also to be prepared battery wise etc.
The production will have us built a proper support for feet and ourselves.

But mostly I would like to know how do you manage with the weather? And with the length of that sort of shoot? Because we have to produce TV quality image most of the time.

I'm sorry my letter has become so long, but I guess what I mostly need is moral support from fellow operators.. :)

All the best! And this is truly one the best film related forums I've come to. I've found many answers even to the non-steadicam related questions.. :)
Ants Martin Vahur


For background information:
I just turned 30, I've been operating steadicam for 8 years now. I have a Steadicam Master Series rig for 1,5 yrs.
I live in Estonia which is in north-east Europe.
And mostly I shoot films and commercials so I'm not very TV ready.
And my showreels can be seen at:

so.. here goes my first post.. :) what do I have to click now? "Toggle side panel"? or "upload"? :) no.. that's for photos.. hmm.. Ah!! found it!- "post topic". :)
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#2 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 04:58 PM

Hi all!
So after being 8 years! a very active passive member (reading a lot of the posts) of this great forum I finally put down my very first post. Hopefully many others will follow.

I thought that in 8 years of steadicam operating I have finally come to something that is worth mentioning here. So..

Next week I'll be steadicam operating an international skiing TV transmission in Estonia which is the skiing marathon 63km-s! in length. And I will be following (or precede) the whole show on the snowmobile with the steadicam hard mounted to it. There's another steadicam operator doing the same thing, following other groups.
We both have tv links transmitted to the helicopter flying above us.
So my main concern of course is the weather because it'll be around -8 degrees in Celsius. Plus the wind which is a very big factor (moving vehicle), even bigger then the temperature.

So I would like to know from you guys, who you have had any similar experience, to give me some advice how to improve my comfort and how to survive!
Well obviously the main thing is to clothe properly. Also to be prepared battery wise etc.
The production will have us built a proper support for feet and ourselves.

But mostly I would like to know how do you manage with the weather? And with the length of that sort of shoot? Because we have to produce TV quality image most of the time.

I'm sorry my letter has become so long, but I guess what I mostly need is moral support from fellow operators.. :)

All the best! And this is truly one the best film related forums I've come to. I've found many answers even to the non-steadicam related questions.. :)
Ants Martin Vahur


For background information:
I just turned 30, I've been operating steadicam for 8 years now. I have a Steadicam Master Series rig for 1,5 yrs.
I live in Estonia which is in north-east Europe.
And mostly I shoot films and commercials so I'm not very TV ready.
And my showreels can be seen at:

so.. here goes my first post.. :) what do I have to click now? "Toggle side panel"? or "upload"? :) no.. that's for photos.. hmm.. Ah!! found it!- "post topic". :)


Ants,
First and Foremost . . . . . Love Estonia !!! spent 2.5 days there 5 months ago shooting Steadicam all over the Old Town

As for the steadicam on the Snowmachines, dress warm, lots of hand warmers and feet warmers,

and being that your sitting backwards you'll be getting a swirl of wind from the snowmobile kicking up snow, I don't know how fast your going to be going but the only way to help keep the lens clean is a good cover for the back of the snowmobile and constant cleaning of the lens.

Since your steadicam is going to be hard mounted to the snowmobile then fatigue factor is fairly minimal with the exception of getting really cold. I suggest making sure your really comfortable on the back and not in some sort of contorted position to see your monitor or to have to hang on, the more comfortable and warm you are the easier the shoot will be and you can concentrate on making the shots.

Good luck, send pictures.

PS, steadicam off the back of snowmobiles is fun and frustrating all at the same time.
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#3 Lars Erik

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 05:59 PM

Ants,

6 years ago I did a 14 day shoot in the North of Norway. Mind you this wasn't Steadicam, but I made a documentary about "Finnmarksløpet". This is the second longest dog sled race in the world, only "Iditarod" in Alaska is longer. The race is 1000km long. We had temperatures down to -25, not counting the wind. All footage was done by me sitting on a Snow Scooter.


So here's some tips for getting comfortable: (even though your shoot is only 3hrs, you'll get cold within 30 minutes if you don't dress right)

Clothes;


Feet;

get shoes designed to use with Snow Scooter. It should be fairly large with an inner slipper. Use thick wool socks. And an electrical heater for your shoes is a good idea. These usually run on a 9v battery or similar. It's best to get electrical heater, using a one-time heater, like mycoal, isn't that great idea. Because it will get difficult to change them in your shoes once the heat wears off. Take care of your feet, these will usually get cold first, as there will be little movement down there.

http://www.baffin.co...sp?idProduct=83

I use these type of boots. Own Baffin myself, but the model I use isn't made anymore. I've been out in the cold in Norway in snowstorms with winds up to 15 m/s and -35 degrees Celcius and I've been fine. Don't take too lightely on the choice of shoes. Make sure the shoes are water resistant. If the scooter drives on a frozen lake, and hits parts of unfrozen water, you'll get that splashed onto your shoes and get wet if they aren't water resistant.


Hands;

This is a tough one, you will need some feeling in your operating hand. The gloves should be wind effective and water proof. Get heaters here also. I've never seen electrical heaters for hands, so I use hand warmers. Here Mycoal Warm Packs is great, easy to replace. They get real warm. I use them all the time in the winter. One pack will keep warm for 3-6 hours, depending on how cold the outside temperature is.

http://www.mycoal.co.uk/


Body;

Use at least one set of wool, on your legs and on your body. Get a thick woolen sweater. Use ski pants that are wind effective and water proof. Get a thick, nice winter coat. Something like a North Face extreme winter jacket.

http://www.thenorthf...variationId=514

A cheaper way to go is a "termodress". Don't know what's it's called in English. These are also very warm.

http://www.norhand.no/?aid=9101998


Head and neck;

Get a balaclava. The type of masks more famous due to criminals using them. Get a good ski cap. Get slalom shades. Snow and wind will get into your eyes otherwise. Get a neck piece that will act as a wind stopper.


Camera;

Which camera are you using? If it gets very cold you will need to isolate it. Make sure you don't take the camera inside after being outside. You'll easily get problems with humidity. Leave the camera outside. Drop any flags, it will mostly just fall off. In my experince shooting in very cold environments, and here in Norway it gets COLD, the piece of equipment that always fails first is the lens. So protect this somehow. Isolate it. Use the my coal heaters and get a full body camera isolation.


Communication;


Don't know who is driving the scooter, but good communication is the key. The scooter makes shitload of noise, so pre-agreed hand signals usually works best. Check if any of the boys driving have worked with a camera crew before.


Safety;

I've been on many shoots involving scooters. And they can easily flip over. If they do, make sure your feet don't get caught under them. I did once, and the scooter weighs several hundred kilos. Luckily it all went fine.


And of course protect your rig.

Have great fun. Good luck!

LE
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#4 Ants Martin Vahur

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 08:04 PM

Wow.. Thanks guys for your help!

I'm glad you liked Tallinn, Rob! :) I assume you were in Tallinn in Old Town..
And big thanks for the thorough walkthrough, Lars!

I think I found some heated socks and gloves from a moto shop. I've used these "one time" heaters and you're right, they stop working after an hour or so, so that wouldn't be the best option.
I think condensation won't be a problem, because after the marathon the whole thing is over and we go home.

Camera's are XDCam-s, they're digibeta type of cameras, only work with disks. And we feed the SDI signal to the link. Also we have the communication with the driver through the headsets (hope they work.. :P). And we specifically asked for good drivers. "Luckilly" one of the producers had a small fall last year from snowmobile so he knows the meaning of a good driver. And we gonna give them a "know how" beforehand.
Funnily I never had any problems with the lenses in cold. In -20 they still have worked fine (betacam, dvcam..). Only zoom gets a bit stiff.. and batteries last about 10 times less then usual.. :P

Safety wise I'm definitely not gonna strap myself to the machine. I'm gonna get a firm supports for my legs and chest to support. So in case the snowmobile falls over (spitting over my shoulder) I have the chance to fly away from it instead of getting trapped under it.
And the camera will be between my legs so I have my support around the camera in each direction. Because I know the forces it'll be pulling me. Especially since there are loads of going up the hill and down the hills.

About the kicking up the snow the guys told us that "noooo.. surely there won't be too much snow kicking up from the back of the machine!" But I have learned to trust but to check. So I try to be ready for this too. Hopefully the lens will stay clean as we are pointing it mostly opposite direction of the snowmobile movement.

And I think it is a good idea to wrap as much of the equipment into the thick cloth as possible. Maybe not the monitor fully.. :)


I'd really like to visit Norway one day. I know so many people who have been to different places in the world and said they're great, but most of them finish they're sentence's with: "..but of course not as beautiful as Norway." :)

Thanks again, guys!
Ants Martin
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#5 Lars Erik

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 02:10 AM

Yes, visit Norway. I have spare room with nice bed. Did I mention the spare room is also the cinema room w/ big screen tv, PS3 and 5.1 surround?


XDCAM; ah...you'll do fine. Is it the 700 series? These babies are great for cold weather. The laser burns at 500 degrees Celcius, so any threat of snow is very low, the snow evaporates long before it can reach any critical part of the camera house.

I don't think you'll have much problem with snow kicking up to your lens, but make sure you protect the battery base of your rig and as said, good shoes.
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#6 Ants Martin Vahur

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 06:29 AM

(I have spare room with nice bed. Did I mention the spare room is also the cinema room w/ big screen tv, PS3 and 5.1 surround)

wow.. Ok.. screw the skiing. I'll pack my stuff and fly over tomorrow morning. :))

But for the camera I don't know the model, but anyways it's a big camera not one of these small homevideo cameras that dare to call themselves a "proffessional cameras" :)

ants martin
off to the motorcycle shop to check some socks and gloves with heating..
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#7 Ants Martin Vahur

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 01:56 PM

So, now it's done. Here's my summary:

Firstly it was very new experience to me. I've done before hard mount from quadbike, van or pick up truck, but this one was different first because of the weather and secondly because of the length. So..

We arrived to the place two days before the event to build everything up. All seemed to go pretty good without biggest kickbacks.

We were supposed to feed the signal to the helicopter flying above us and from the helicopter they feed to the EVS bus and so on to the live TV. The day before the event- helicopter doesn't fly because of the weather- switch to plan B. Link crew from Sweden takes down their link antennas.
Plan B was that we record on XDcam tapes (yeah I know they're disks actually) and give them at each checkpoint (roughly at every 30-40 mins) to feed to the air, so audience sees our picture with 1 hr delay. That's fine. Also we lost the communication with the director. Well that's fine too. I know what to do- shoot the lead group.

The day before we did the whole track to see if there is any major kickback and how everything works. On the first half we managed to fall down because of the very unstable setup. Luckily I caught my rig with the camera 10cm (4 inches) above the ground and after little bit of struggle we managed to pull up the snowmobile. That worked fine for adrenaline.
Rest of the track was fine. Other steadicam operator (yeah there was two of us) fell down twice!. The second time he said he saw only lense and steadicam monitor above the snow- everything else was under the snow.. But it seemed that no harm was done- the snow was very soft and about 50cm (1.5 feet) high on uncleaned places. And the ride continued..
Average speed of the skiiers was 20kmh (13 mph). Downhill speeds grew up to 50kmh (35mph)!

Weather wise. I had all the double socks, double gloves, skiiers under shirt with pullover and winter jacket. Hands were fine due to the constant work and trying to tame the beast (steadicam). Only feet got very cold up to the knees. But not too bad. It wasn't that painful feelign when you feel your joints are falling off.

So the main day.. 6000 skiiers from I don't know how many different countries.. Adrenaline is very high. I'm picking up the skiiers from the first curve and start driving in front of them. Everything works fine. I tell the driver that the most important thing is that we don't fall. We had a very good open radio communication between us so we could speak in normal voices.
I built my monitors power from the snowmobile batteries so I don't have to change my monitors batteries (green screen- very hungry). On the good land I could even zoom in to the skiiers almost close up! I'm surprised myself. Downside is that I had to produce 30 mins constant footage. So obviously there are some bigger mistakes too..

And then... on the 15th kilometer (9th mile) (quarter from the whole track) few km-s (1.3miles) before the first checkpoint where I have to leave my first XDcam tape.. the snowmobile starts doing very weird noises.. We come to a stop and discover that something very serious has happened to the transmission from engine to the tracks. So I give the tape to the driver and ask him to run to the first uplink van to give the tape. He manages.

We tried to fix the snowmobile but it seemed to require a lot more then four hands on the busy skiing track.. So.. here ends my story. I was quite pissed off, but what can I do. Obviously it's the thing you leat expect that happens. We were prepare for everything else but this. So the other steadicam guy takes my positions and works all the way to the finish with the skiiers.

Here are some videos from the snowmobile. I thought someone might be interested:



http://www.youtube.c...feature=channel

http://www.youtube.c...feature=channel

Sorry about the last video- it's in wrong aspect ratio. And I couldn't change it because I used the homevideo programs.
I also try to get my camera footage in the next few days to show the result of this all.


Hope it was any interesting. Please feel free to ask any questions! I surely learned a lot.

Ants Martin
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#8 Jeff Muhlstock SOC

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 04:52 PM

Attached File  me_on_snowmobile_copy_2_2.jpg   94.34KB   93 downloads
Attached File  scanned_photos_22_2.jpg   89.51KB   75 downloads

Here was a make shift snowmobile soft mount I did for opening ceremonies, Lillihammer Winter games 1994'
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