Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Focus Pulling On Ski Slopes


Doing a feature in Austria, we're using an Aaton Prod, s16 for blowup.

Any advice on focus pulling on ski slopes? Taking focus marks and judging distance might get a little tough now & then, how do you mark them on the lens with cold fingers and tape that won't stick? (is that 'cold-weather tape' you can order at Filmtools/StudioDepot any good?) How do you move around and stay organized under these conditions?


Vincent Geijsel

When it's too cold to put tape marks on a lens barrel, grease pencil can do the trick. Travel as light as possible. Put the cases on a large plastic platter with a rope tied to it and drag it everywhere like a sleigh. Big straps of velcro will help keep the cases from slipping off. Bring lots of drinks as it's easy to dehydrate as all the moisture blows right out your mouth.

To keep them warm, use numerous small battery bricks dropping them in your INTERIOR coat pockets and running a battery cable out your sleeve or under the bottom of your waist (loop it through your belt so you won't pull on the connectors or pull the battery right out of your pocket.

Wear a hat!

Mitch Gross

Greetings Vincent,

Have been working all Feb mostly outdoors so it can be very cold, especially at night. Get some long johns or silk long underwear.

Regarding gloves this is usually how I do it.

I have a whole set of gloves depending on the weather and the situation. I have a set of fine silk gloves as primary gloves, every finger is separated, they keep the warm. Then according to the situation and cold either have a pair of mitten… the good ones are where you can keep them on but on top or flip over the part covering the four fingers.

If the weather is really wet then I go for the big mountaineering gloves made from Kevlike. Cover the bottom part of your legs with a pair of gaiters. It avoids the snow to enter from the bottom upwards. Hand warmers are good to have standby. If you are on a feature wardrobe usually has them. Get good head cover and very important as well ear warmers. Sun cream and lip balsam a must.

Most important of all is not to get cold in the first place and when humid to keep it out at all costs, but don't overdo it either. Once the sun is really up it can get really warm and sweaty.

Also make sure your camera car or van has heating.

Hope this helps,



>Taking focus marks and judging distance might get a little tough now & >then, how do you mark them on the lens with cold fingers and tape that >won't stick?

This really isn't a big deal. Get a few marks by eye, maybe on the gates or poles the skiers go through. You'll see how little you have to move the focus barrel. You won't need to mark the lens. When the skiers get within 30 or 40 feet (10 or so meters) they'll be flying by so fast they'll be a blur on the neg anyways. After a few takes your big concern will be finding the hot drinks!

Stay warm. Layers work best.

Good luck.

Andy Hoehn
First Assistant Camera
Detroit, MI USA

I've been shooting a bit of ski films from Warren Miller to extreme events and a bit in-between. The good thing about shooting on snow is that its usually at least an F-8 (depending on how much diffusion you are using) so your focal plane is massive. Although not particularly easy you can still pull focus just not always as fast as with a warm lens. The toughest shots are the ones with the subject coming straight at you and pulling that focus is not easy, we usually pull out as they fly towards you. (yes the ugly zoom) If you are using a focus wheel the non-perm marker should still write well enough.

Setting focus marks for action that is not rehearsed is a little tough. I would be more worried about the camera motor getting up to speed especially if you are shooting high speed or synch sound. I use an Arri S, & SR 2 and have had pretty good luck with those.

Bring along a few hand warmers that you can shake up, one set of thin gloves, one thick.

Brook Aitken
Film Video
Colorado USA

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.