Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996
Filming at Sea
>In ten days we are shooting for 3 days in an open, replica, 50 ft Viking sailing vessel, on the North Sea. We are making a documentary trying to figure out how the Vikings navigated. We have modern day Vikings who hope to navigate from Norway to Shetlands with out GPS etc. We are shooting on widescreen DigiBeta on the Viking boat and have a hermetically sealed gyro stabilized camera, with 36 to 1 lens on a safety boat. (That's a replica Viking gyro of course) I've used the Neoprene Splash Bags and found that they do not offer the degree of operation of the lens or camera that is required when shooting a documentary above water. So I decided to make a housing for this job. I'll be sealing the camera on the Viking boat with amalgamated tape, waterproof sail repair tape and high quality electricians tape. Then I'll cover, or stick to the camera a specially adapted (read home made) rain cover. Over this goes a Portabrace camera cover without the piece that covers the lens. I'm happy with the camera protection. The internal focusing lens will be enclosed in a thin plastic bag that is sealed to the lens hood at one end and to the camera body at the other. A few inches of the hand grip on the lens will be exposed to enable a firm grip. I don't intend to change lenses so I'll be sealing this bag up pretty tight to the camera. I'll slip a bag of desiccant gel in the bag to help absorb any moisture. A UV filter will cover the front element. I plan to seal the glass of this filter to its ring with err something (silicone) to stop water creeping between glass and ring to prevent a puddle forming between UV filter and front element. The big question is, how to clean the lens regularly over the course of 3 days and 2 nights. Any ideas? Are salt deposits difficult to clean off? Is Rainex a good idea? This job is different from most glossy yachting films as we have to be ready to shoot at any time for sometimes 10 or 15 minutes at a time, regardless of weather. I thought of a huge bottle of compressed air hidden away with a conveniently placed air gun that I could reach for to give the lens a quick blast. We will be shooting most of the time at the helm so I could have a cleaning station set up. There is a budget to have the lens stripped and cleaned at the end of the job. Any ideas greatly appreciated, and yes we all will get seasick. Mike Brennan
>I can't offer solid advice on anything, but the 'Rainex.' **Don't**...not unless you like the look of shooting through Vaseline. Take it from someone who had to drive a windshield-wiperless car through Seattle for a friend. It was a horrible, horrible experience.
>The compressed air tanks sound like another potential hazard depending upon the amount of moisture that builds up inside the tanks...
>It's too bad you couldn't have designed something like part of a Ikelite housing into you rig, i.e., something with o-rings and clamps and quick access to your camera.
>Salt water is beaucoup corrosive. gotta clean it as near immediately as you can if it gets thru. Watch your front element especially. just takes a drop to bore thru the coatings.
>Wish I was on this shoot. sounds ideal.
>A breeze can work in your favor, besides creating compelling shots- it flattens down the spray.
>Pleasant voyage & mmm mm fresh cod,
>P.S. Bring beer to trade fisherman for catch. Zmazing what a 6 pack can land you...works in all languages.
>While I can't directly answer your questions, CML did a lengthy discussion several months back with the subject Tropicalization. Go to CML web page and you should find the subject on the first page. It may help you quite a bit.
>> wish I was on this shoot. sounds ideal. > I agree. For three years my wife and I have talked about buying a 40' sail boat, cruising the oceans and producing an adventure series. Even wrote a treatment of the project. Anyone up for a joint venture?
>Pat Cooksey Land locked DOP
>I can't offer solid advice on anything, but the 'Rainex.' **Don't**...not unless you like >the look of shooting through Vaseline. Take it from someone who had to drive a >windshield-wiperless car through Seattle for a friend. It was a horrible, horrible >experience.
>Never tried it, but the Rain-X (TM) sounds like a good idea to me. I disagree with the above caveat. Properly applied, it is completely clear on the windshield and works great. Try a test to see.
>How about a supply of fresh water to splash on the front filter, then wipe with a soft cloth?
>Wade Ramsey, DP
>I've never tried Rainex for shooting but must admit to being a part-time motorhead. I use Rainex on my vehicles and it works great for its purpose. It changes the quality of the surface tension of the water on the windshield, thus causing the water to bead up. A fine mist would form many small beads of water on the surface. But when the car is moving the beads are blown off the windshield from the wind created by the aerodynamics of the car. When applied the Rainex is definitely clear but as it ages it becomes noticeable and filmy looking on the windshield even worse than if no Rainex was ever applied. Especially noticeable at night when the lights from oncoming cars backlight it. So, it must be applied often whenever the car is washed to be effective (Of course, this depends on your automotive hygiene). Perhaps this is why we have two opposing views regarding Rainex.
>My own opinion is that I can't see how it would help a wet situation for the lens. Unless it was integrated with a steady air stream. On it's own it may be worse. Definitely worse if it wears too much and gets filmy (Unless of course, one wishes to achieve my new product FILMY LOOK). Wouldn't one of the more conventional systems for keeping water off the lens be more appropriate or is it to cumbersome?
>Jim Sofranko DP/NY
>I recall reading an article years ago on the production of DAS BOOT where the cinematographer said he used a green apple slice to wipe the front filter to prevent fogging in moist conditions. Has anyone heard of this?
>Interesting. I thought I heard of people doing that with scuba masks. Spitting on the glass also seems to work, although that may only earn you strange looks on set...
>Feliciano di Giorgio
>Soooo...if you were to eat an apple (Pippin? or Granny Smith) then spit...
>Don't even want to think about bottling it...
>Thanks for the advice regarding shooting on boats, lens cleaning etc. We had a very successful shoot last week and I am delighted to report no breakdowns or damage, whatsoever!
>Here is the summery of the conditions and camera protection.
>The documentary programme, for BBC A&N etc, explored the means by which the Vikings navigated from Denmark, across the North Sea, to the Shetland Islands and beyond. A sound recordist, director, assistant and myself were onboard a replica 57 ft Viking cargo sailing boat. This is an open boat. ie no hold save for a small galley. The journey took 3 days. Accompanying us was a safety boat. We installed a stabilized camera on the safety boat with an operator and assistant.
>The results from this camera were staggering.
>We encountered seas that made the safety boat roll up to 60 degrees, each way, yet in shot the horizon was always level. How about a perfect sunrise, Viking boat in foreground on the high seas with a 800mm. Wow. Because we were mostly filming with the vessels side by side, it was the tilt mechanism of the camera that was correcting the rolling motion of the boat. The pitching motion of the boat was being corrected by the roll mechanism of the stabilizer. However, had we been shooting from directly in front or from behind the Viking boat, the roll correction mechanism of the camera, which is limited to 30 degrees of correction each way, would have struggled to correct the extreme rolling motion of the safety boat. Faced with having to protect the camera on the Viking boat for 3 days and nights from salt water, sea breeze as well as torrential rain was a tall order. Splash bags kept being suggested as the way to go but having used them before, I knew that I could not operate the camera quickly enough to capture worthwhile lip synch from the sailing crew.
>I wanted full control of the camera so I came up with a solution that I figure anybody can use, for any camera, in any dirty, dusty or wet environment. Its simple, its cheap, its easy to apply and remove, it leaves no residue, it's heat resistant, it's waterproof it's readily available - it's electricians tape. After months of research into specialist camera housings, specialist tapes and plastics we discovered that 4 inch wide rolls of high grade, PVC electricians tape, wrapped around the camera made it splashproof, virtually air tight and didn't drastically change the feel or shape of the camera. Switches can be accommodated by making little holes in the tape and covering them with loosely folded clear plastic. Because the tape is thin it is possible to read led displays through it! It is possible to remove parts of the camera, say a shoulder pad, cover the camera and then screw the shoulder pad back on through the tape. We had a test day on the boat and the final version of the system (Mark 4) worked for the entire journey without need of maintenance. We used amalgamation tape to seal cables to connectors.
>Protecting the lens was achieved by putting it in a lightweight plastic bag that was sealed to the camera and the lens hood. A UV filter was screwed into the lens hood, with a dab of silicon grease to ensure a waterproof seal. The bag was loose enough to allow focus and iris operation. A small bag of silica gel was placed inside the bag to absorb moisture. Lens cleaning was achieved by occasionally spraying with distilled water and wiping with ordinary lens cleaning tissue. This was a pain but in the course of the shoot I can remember only a couple of shots that had any drops on the lens. We installed a G clamp bowl near the helm. The head was protected by a heavy duty plastic bag. We screwed the wedge plate on the inside of the bag and the baseplate on the outside. The baseplate was the only unprotected (other than for a coating of silicon spray) item of kit. The camera could quickly be placed on the head when the weather was rough or when we were not shooting to keep it off the wet deck. We also shot from this fixed position regularly to emphasize the motion of the boat. We hoped to wear lightweight sports helmets (£19.99 from water sports or snowboarding shops) in case we fell over but they offered little protection from the cold. As a last resort we took on board a pelican case large enough to take the camera and audio mixer in an emergency. We lined it with nappies (diapers, for the American fraternity) to absorb any splashes that could sneak in whilst putting the camera in the case. The camera was splashed half a dozen times or so by the equivalent of a large bucket of water. It was rained upon for hours on end. The camera did not have to endure being submerged at 25 knots as on a racing yacht (our top speed was 14 knots and we averaged 6 knots) but the tape method of protecting equipment is ideal for most other hostile environments in which we occasionally find ourselves.
>From now on my kit will always have a 4 inch wide roll of white electricians tape. When asked by the local media what the most dangerous part of the trip was, the Viking skipper said "being driven around the island by the BBC director"! Thanks for all your advice and yes we did get seasick.
>Mike; Maybe I misunderstand, but you actually wrapped the whole camera body in 4" electrical tape???? This includes switches and all? This didn't leave a horrible sticky mess on the camera body - electrical tape is notorious for leaving sticky messes if left on for more than a day.
>Great write up on the trip, Mike, but I echo Jim Allen's concern, did you really manage to get the tape off the camera without any sticky gunge, especially after it had got wet?
>If so, tell me where you get this stuff, it'll save me wrestling under badly designed rain covers and the like.
>TeaTeaFN - Tony Grant
>The tape came from Adhesive Specialties Ltd a British manufacturer. Their sales arm is called Tiki Tape, (tel 441816909922). They supply and make gaffer, silver foil and other specialist tapes. We tested the tape, (type PVC electrical BS3924, 100mx33m in white or black) before we left by sticking it on various items of grip equipment and leaving it in the English summer sun for a few days. Those in hotter countries should test it accordingly. There was absolutely no gunk and virtually no residue. I know that there must be some residue but we can't detect it. My camera assistant simply peeled it off the camera - that's it! We applied the tape by overlapping it so no water could travel down the creases. It didn't peel at the edges like I thought it would when it was exposed to water.
>The camera did not look pretty! I put half of a porta brace cover over the top of the camera, more to hide the thing than for any added protection. We wrapped the whole viewfinder assembly in 4 inch wide, white yachting amalgamation tape which is rubbery. It formed a neat seal over the articulated joint of the viewfinder. I applied silicone grease to the join between eyepiece and viewfinder, then enclosed the viewfinder and the top part of the camera with a modified Portabrace cover, which left an unobstructed lens. When we finished the 3 days at sea I left the camera taped up as it offered such a effective protection from the salty atmosphere. We shot scenes of the boat in the Shetlands for another 6 days. I removed the lens protection as I needed to use prime lenses, but the tape stayed put. It took us a few days to figure out how to best apply the tape, then we had a test day on board the boat, followed by a short journey with a break before the journey proper began. So we had plenty of time to develop the gusseted arrangement for the switches.
>I would allow 3 hours of playing around time to experiment with the holes for switches, removing the shoulder pad and wedge plate of the camera.
>The question as to whether blocking the few ventilation holes damages the camera, should best be left answered by Sony. However, I have covered these holes before in a very very hot and smoke filled environment, for a 3 week shoot, without adverse affect on the camera, which I owned, and continued to use for 18 months after. It was this experience that gave me the confidence to tape everything up on this shoot. I had one minor problem with condensation when I got the lens too close to a steaming pot onboard the boat. The steam traveled through the gap between the UV filter and its ring. I had sealed the thread of the ring with silicone grease when screwing it to the lens hood. I was reluctant to use silicone grease on the inner edges of the UV filter as I knew it would smear across the surface of the filter when I was removing salt water from the filter. This was the only niggle I had. Next time I will try to seal this gap with glue. Did I say next time?
>Not only that, but I've never seen white electrical tape. All I've seen is black vinyl.
>Wade Ramsey, DP
>Living right on the Gulf of Mexico (USA) - I'm extremely interested in what you've done here. Do you know if the tape is available in the states, or do you have a web address for the manufacture? I like your shrink-wrapping idea as well - which leads me to think about the plastic wrap manufactures put around their products when they ship large quantities on a pallet. That stuff might work as well. Congrats on making a wonderful breakthrough.
>I like your shrink-wrapping idea as well - which leads me to think about the plastic >wrap manufactures put around their products when they ship large quantities on a >pallet. We looked into the shrink wrap idea, which would work very well indeed for kit >if you did not need to get access to any switches or controls.
>Its cheap and all you need is hot air to make it shrink. It could be removed to change mags and quickly reapplied, I suppose. Cling film is another alternative. I went down the PVC tape route because I needed full access to all camera and lens controls. I was surprised how well the plastic bag over the lens worked. It looked amateurish, so did we staggering around deck, but it worked a treat. We did not cover the hand grip part of the lens as it would have become very slippery. We simply cut and taped the plastic bag so that the hand grip part of the lens was exposed. Luckily, this is a solid piece of casting with no joins. The zoom rocker switch and roll buttons were under cover and worked very well through the plastic. Remember I did not change lenses on the boat, so it was worth while to make this bag-o-lens a neat fit. The only gaps were the battery to camera connection and when we changed video tape. We enclosed the batteries in the tape and because the tape is thin, we could read the led display of the PAG battery through the tape. I removed the flip up cover of the tape controls (eject play etc) and operated them through a piece of clear plastic. The 4 inch wide amalgamation tape we used on the handle, viewfinder and cable could be bought at a chandler, less wide rolls from a hardware store.
>Here is the spec for the PVC tape. The manufacturer, Adhesive Specialties Limited, work to British standards. They introduce a new product code if they change the spec. of a product. They do not change spec, ie type of adhesive, without telling anyone. They have a minimum order charge, but they also sell gaffer and silver tape if you don't need to buy 40 rolls of electrical tape! I do not work for, or am I under any obligation to Adhesive Specialties Ltd. Other types of pvc tape may work, but this one leaves no residue. You should test it for your local conditions, or I am available to demonstrate the technique in any tropical locale... Mike, never looks good in PVC, Brennan
>Description PVC electrical, insulating tape, complying with British standards BS3924 31/90Tp The tape is flame retardant falling into the self extinguishing category to BS3924 cat. 2. Offers good conformability.
>Spec Widths available: 12, 19, 25, 30, 38, 50, 75, 100mm. Standard Length: 33m Thickness: 0.14mm Tensile Strength: 28 N/cm Adhesion to steel: 2.4 N/cm. After one hour Adhesion to Self: 2.2 N/cm After one hour Elongation at break: 175% Application temp: 0C to 40 C Service Temp: 0C to 70C Water Vapour Permeability 25g/m2/per
>Electrical properties Rapid breakdown Voltage 8.0kV Flame Retardency: Self extinguishing Copper corrosion test: No staining Insulation Resistance 10/10 ohm