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Operating in deep snow at altitude


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#1 Orlando Duguay

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:27 PM

Hi Everybody,

I just finished a very difficult 4 day shoot up in Mammoth Lakes, CA and I was hoping I might be able to get some pointers from some of the more experienced ops out there that might have found themselves in similar situations.

Our first day on set was in blizzard conditions with 3 feet of fresh powder (it took us half the morning just to get the production vehicles dug out, chained up, and driven to set). We were at 8,000 feet in elevation and I was provided with snowshoes to prevent from postholing up to my waist. After the first few shots I was winded (a combination of the altitude, walking in snow, and a fairly heavy rig, picture below). We also had a bulky Element Technica rain cover on the camera which impeded my operating because it kept putting pressure on the gimbal. The very cold weather didn't help my situation either, with temperatures down to 10 degrees F, I had to wear thick gloves and bulky clothing which partially restricted my movement.

Attached File  photo.JPG   152.89KB   296 downloads

Then they asked me to do several 50 meter "running shots" in medium close-up of an actor running through the snow towards camera. I had to operate in Don Juan because operating backwards with snowshoes was out of the question At the end of the day we ended up getting a few decent shots, but I pretty much felt like a kindergartener the whole day, unable to operate to my normal standards. I wanted to be able to deliver the shots that the director had envisioned, but we were constantly restricted by the elements and my ability to move through the deep snow. We had to simplify many shots and compromise on complex movements because of my inability to deliver stellar results in these conditions.

I am still fairly new to steadicam, I have been trained by experienced operators and have been operating fairly consistently for about a year, but I've never worked in snow before. I was wondering if anyone could give me tips on how to better work in deep snow, at high altitude, and in cold weather.

Thanks!

Orlando
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#2 Ken Nguyen

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 06:49 PM

Running with snow shoe!
You were lucky that you didn't fall.

Snowmobile or dog sled should help you to get those running shot.

Fly safe!

Ken Nguyen.
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#3 Frederic Chamberland

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 08:43 PM

One word , : Roll-a-ramp .

roll-a-ramp web site


I have the grips department rent some every time I have to move in deep snow. You can make them as long as you want but for portability , I' d recommend having two sections of 15' . I so much love those I even considered buying some but it takes too much space in my truck. You unroll them, flip them over and voila: a cat walk capable of supporting 2000lbs.

Cheers.

Frederic
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#4 Orlando Duguay

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 08:58 PM

One word , : Roll-a-ramp .

roll-a-ramp web site


I have the grips department rent some every time I have to move in deep snow. You can make them as long as you want but for portability , I' d recommend having two sections of 15' . I so much love those I even considered buying some but it takes too much space in my truck. You unroll them, flip them over and voila: a cat walk capable of supporting 2000lbs.

Cheers.

Frederic



That's a great suggestion. I will definitely insist on a rollaramp next time I'm in snow. Thanks!
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#5 JohanPhillips

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:13 AM

Hello,
Sounds like a tricky shoot.

My 2 cents is to if possible, stay of the snowmobile and to hardmount on the sled instead.

They are fantasticly smooth and have a much lower CG rhen the snowmobile.

Also on the sled you can fit DOP and a focuspuller.

We also did a rig to try to cover the tracks, some branches or likwise works preatty well.

Take it easy if going downwords! Then its not tje best setup.

Regards johan
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#6 Louis Puli SOC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:37 AM

Hi everyone
Something like this would go well budget permitting. :ph34r:

Attached Files


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#7 RonBaldwin

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 09:56 AM

inexperienced directors always ask you to do crazy stuff like that because they saw some great shot in a movie and just assumed some poor bloke was "running in front of a sprinting cheetah across the tundra". With more experience you can sniff this out and ask the right questions, come up with solutions and most importantly to politely (or not, as I like to do) tell the director he is high and offer a better suggestion before you get there and look like a whiney biatch (to him).

We all feel your pain. I can hardly carry a 50 lb backpack at 8000 ft let alone operate a steadicam (ask Matt Petrosky or Tom Gleason)
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#8 Janice Arthur

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 10:04 AM

Hi all;

I've already told Orlando this but some days they should just call a "rain" day and reschedule but they don't.

Some days you do your best and just can't make it as good as you want.

Some days they shouldn't be trying to shoot; just the time to dig out the vehicles should have been an indicator!!


Trust me every department had to "adapt" to the conditions those days. You're work was as good as the conditions would allow.

Learn but don't beat yourself up over it.

(I had a shoot on a lake, hard mounted, was so sure I had it all figured out, many many issues with camera, location, endless issues with every issue but me, then my boat mount wouldn't work in certain areas etc. Just miserable day of trying so hard. They got the footage but what a hard day. I hated that day, relived it a lot, finally ran into the DP and mentioned it; all he said was you know that was four years ago, boy did I feel stupid all over again.)

Janice
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#9 Orlando Duguay

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 11:59 AM

Thanks for all the support guys. I guess I've learned my lesson. Next time if a script calls for a snow shoot, I'll know exactly what's realistic and what to ask for before the first day of shooting.

Thanks again!
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#10 Kevin Andrews SOC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 01:31 PM

Flew that exact camera/lens setup on this spot at around 9,000 ft in the Rockies. Not winter though luckily. But still had very uneven terrain, mud, rocks and such. Best advice I can offer for working at altitude is drink LOTS of water and get someone else to carry your sled back to one. That way your are not waisting precious energy when you are only breathing around 75% of the oxygen you get at sea level. The shot at :07 in was a nice trek up hill through low scrub. Around 6 takes. You bet I had a grip carry that sled back to the start.


Now that I think of it, I'm always operating at altitude. 5,280ft. minimum here in Denver. No wonder I'm so tired all the time. :rolleyes:
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#11 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 04:29 PM

Kevin,

Forget the technical details, in NYC we don't see that kind of stuff!!! Middle America is indeed a different place. Thats really on TV??????
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#12 Kevin Andrews SOC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 04:59 PM

Kevin,

Forget the technical details, in NYC we don't see that kind of stuff!!! Middle America is indeed a different place. Thats really on TV??????



Yes sir
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#13 Tommy Stork

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 11:56 PM

One word , : Roll-a-ramp .

roll-a-ramp web site


I have the grips department rent some every time I have to move in deep snow. You can make them as long as you want but for portability , I' d recommend having two sections of 15' . I so much love those I even considered buying some but it takes too much space in my truck. You unroll them, flip them over and voila: a cat walk capable of supporting 2000lbs.

Cheers.

Frederic


Hi Frederic,
Where would you recommend renting the rollaramp in Los Angeles?
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#14 Frederic Chamberland

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 06:20 AM

Hi Tommy ,
I'm on the east coast and could not help you further than probably ask your grips about it or call a specialised rental store where they rent wheelchairs .
The only two roll-a-ramp available here are privatly owned by grips .
Cheers
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#15 Thomas Schnaidt

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Posted 24 April 2012 - 10:53 AM

orlando,

I gotta ask what lens that is you had on there. Before I opened up the photo and could only see the thumbnail, I thought that my ongoing joke of putting the 12-1 on a 5d on a sled had come true! Regardless, that lens looks beastly, I thought I'd seen em all!.

Tom
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