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Himalaya shoot...


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#1 Oliver Roetz

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 01:58 PM

I am going to the himalayan region in about two weeks time. All of a sudden they decided: Let's take your Steadicam...! :o

We are shooting in the Kingdom of Bhutan, doing a documentary about religion, people and daily life and of course...about the mountains. Average altitude is between 1700m and 2500m. But for a couple of days we are at about 4500m. With steadi. :blink:

Anybody out there who did some steadiwork in higher altitude? Anything special to be aware of besides thin air? Any ideas how to prepare?

I appreciate your responses...


Keep flying safe, Oliver
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#2 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 18 March 2004 - 07:29 PM

I know you are new to this, but for God's sake, if you are going to do this job, at least spell it correctly.

Sorry, but that would be like me getting a job for Levi's and spelling it Levy's.
But, of course, I would then have to leave the U.S. for Indonesia or somewhere then too.

As for working at altitude...take deep breaths and ask for oxygen. :P
Good luck!
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#3 Oliver Roetz

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 02:33 AM

Michael,

thanks for your response. I guess that's part of the learning process... :huh:



Oliver
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#4 Anthony Hardwick

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 03:59 AM

Oliver,

I did a shoot in Nepal many years ago. I was an AC at the time. One day in the two week shooting schedule we flew up to a high altitude village called Lang Tang. If I recall correctly, it was located at an altitude of 16,700 feet. We flew in a massive Russian military helicopter with our crew and two full 16mm camera packages. There was no steadicam, but we were all suffering from the effects of mild altitude sickness by the end of the shoot. If I could figure out why my pics don't seem to post here, I'd post a beautiful picture from that day.

In any case, if you can possibly ease into the high altitude stuff to let your body acclimate over a period of at least a few days, you will fare better. The rig will no doubt have you well out of breath before long. Be careful. Drink LOTS of water. It is easy to dehydrate at altitude. Wear sun block. Bring warm clothes. Take some tylenol with you. Good luck!

Anthony
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#5 Larry McConkey

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 07:57 AM

I did a shoot in Equador years ago and the entire crew first stayed at about 11,000 feet for a few days to acclimatize before going several thousand feet higher to work. One of the actors came at the last moment (schedule conflicts) and was brought directly to set without this adjustment period. He left on a stretcher a few hours later. Altitude sickness can be very serious, in this case the actor recovered without any problems.

The rest of the shoot went well, but I was astonished by how much effort it took to go uphill with the Steadicam on! Of course the film was about going up a mountain, so all the shots tended to go uphill! I survived, but I was humbled. Be prepared for much longer prep time to get equipment staged, and expect to need help with the rig before and after each take, and make sure you have good spotters when necessary as your strength will vanish unexpectedly in the middle of shooting until you get used to the effect of the altitude. The oxygen suggestion is a good one, production should have it available and that will allow the fastest possible recovery after a hard shot. Good luck!!

Larry
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#6 Brant S. Fagan SOC

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 08:45 AM

Folks--

Some time back, I spend three weeks up in the Abysinnian Highlands of Ethiopia at elevations from 8,000 ft ranging upt o about 10,500 ft.

Since I was shooting running shots from a truck mount for the first week, I had little chance to wear the gear to help acclimatize.

Once off the truck, my body responded quickly and stamina increased quickly.

My suggestion is to consume as much water and healty food as you can manage and still fit into your rig.

Your body will be using up more energy to maintain itself on the thin air and water is absolutely critical for this to happen smoothly.

Remeber to have other people watch out for signs of trouble amongst your crew; if you don't feel right, don't fly the rig. Falls or injury aren't worth the risk in remote areas.

Best,

Brant S. Fagan, SOC
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#7 pbalsdon

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Posted 20 March 2004 - 05:03 AM

I've done six trips to the Himalaya, including filming a doco on a major Himalayan expedition. I've never taken steadicam, only the lightest film gear possible (Super 8 above 18,000').
You start to notice altitude at about 5,000 - 6,000 feet. After 10,000 feet you should consider acclimatizing by sleeping two nights at each gain of about 2,000 feet. During the day climb higher but descend for sleeping. Lugging heavy loads for fitness during acclimatizing is not recommended, you need to your body every chance of adjusting. Your blood needs to develop more red corpusles to allow it to absorb oxygen more efficiently. Often too fit people suffer more, I was extremely fit on the major expedition I did and it's the only time I've felt altitude badly, I was lugging a 70lb pack of film gear on the walk in and working too hard to allow my body to adjust.
The approximate effect of altitude at 17,000 feet is the equivilent of carrying three times the weight at sea level. (Full iMax rig! Don't be alarmed the steadicam arm won't know the difference!)
Normal effects of altitude include breathlessness, slight headaches and general tiredness and difficulty sleeping. Serious headaches, congestion in the lungs, eye sight problems and becoming disorientated are signs of more serious problems for which there is only one remedy - descend immediately and as fast as possible. You should really have a person experienced in recognising these problems with you, preferably a doctor.
Now having alarmed you enough, I wish it was me going again, as long as you are aware of the problems and how to deal with them you'll be fine.
The really good thing is that if you're there long enough to really acclimatize well you'll be extremely fit for a couple of weeks after your return. A good mountaineering shop will have books that deal with high altitude acclimatization (in the USA try REI).
Recommended movie - 'Himalaya' - where they lugged jimmy jibs, steadicam etc. three weeks walk from the nearest road and filmed at altitudes over 18,000 feet in severe storms. Enjoy your trip it's a remarkalbe place, umm, you don't need an assistant do you?
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#8 geoff shotz

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Posted 22 March 2004 - 10:43 PM

oliver- all the advice about acclimating is very correct. although all my experience has been simply backpacking and such, there is one little secret i will share with all of you. siberian ginseng! the purer the better and the longer in advance you can start taking it the better. it helps process oxygen into your blood and helps you to adjust faster. it alleviates some of the discomforts and effects of the altitude but will not help with the breathlessness and fatigue. it is really helpful when trying to adjust. good luck

geoff
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#9 WillArnot

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Posted 23 March 2004 - 07:58 PM

Yes, excellent advice from pbaldson and Larry et al. Especially with the things you take for granted... getting staged / set up, simple 10ft move up an incline, etc all unexpectedly more difficult. But go in knowing all this and it's really about pacing yourself correctly and being aware.

Geoff Shotz's little secret is very true and I will add to that with another wonderful recommendation that was made to me, and that is something called GINKOBA. It is specifically made for helping to acclimate to altitude. In addition to ginseng it contains Garlic I believe. I was also advised to take additional Garlic supplement in small pill form as well. This seemed to help immensely when I did the last Ron Howard film in New Mexico where we were at 8,000 - 10,000ft and hoofing through ankle/knee deep snow too for the first month.

Hydration of course is more important than EVER!. MUst MUST.

The Ginkoba was readily available at Duane Read or the like down there in New Mexico. I suppose try health food stores or online. It was in a pill form too.

Breathe Deeply and slowly. The other thing that really got me into full steadicam@altitude shape was running on my days off. It only took a couple of sessions at very low speed to get towards normal mileage/performance. Very slowly 'bouncing' up small hills. Control the breathing. Try to stay in a relaxed breathing state even tho you are gently exerting yourself. Don't overdo it.

All the best.

Will Arnot
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#10 Oliver Roetz

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 02:53 PM

Guys,
thanks so much for all the great advice. I really appreciate it.
Tomorrow we are going to get all our gear ready - I am expecting a great time in Bhutan.


@Phil: Wouldn't it be just great to share that unique experience? Next time I am going to that area - I'll let you know... ;) BTW: Do you know Harry Panagiotidis? (Australia is sooo small... :D ) He was one of the instructors at a workshop I did 2 years ago...



Thanks again, keep flying safe


Oliver
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#11 pbalsdon

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Posted 24 March 2004 - 03:17 PM

Will's advice about re-hydrating is really important. Drink as much clean water as you can even if you don't feel thirsty. Where you get clean water though is another problem. Use a purifying tablet that kills giardia, which is rife in the Himalaya. Boiling water is okay but as you get higher the boilng temperature of water is lowered so it needs to boil for ten minutes to make it safe.
Another film I remembered is "The Cup" which was shot in Bhutan and if I remember correctly won a best foreign film Oscar a few years ago.
The Buddhist people from this part of the world are wonderful, the west can learn a lot from their attitude to life and Bhutan is a particularily special place.
You'll have a fantastic time.
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