Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Salt Water - Bad Luck

This morning I was in a boat out in the Gulf of Mexico and the camera boat took a nose-dive into a huge wave and my SR2 took a big splash -- a few gallons of salt water hitting it squarely on the operator side.

Besides the usual CR-56 cleaning -- does anyone have any suggestions about what to do about it all. Nothing shorted out, and we were able to shoot with the camera later in the day with a different lens.

My 10-100 was mounted, so I guess it needs to go to Arri NY or Zellan or Germany . . .

Jim Dollarhide

The big fear from salt water is corrosion. The camera and lens need to be opened up and any salt deposits cleaned away. They can cause shorts or eat away at circuitry. They can also eat away at lens coatings. Time for a good cleaning on the Production's buck.

Mitch Gross

Jim Dollarhide writes:

> This morning I was in a boat out in the Gulf of Mexico and the camera >boat took a nose-dive into a huge wave and my SR2 took a big splash >-- a few gallons of salt water hitting it squarely on the operator side.

If any salt water got into the camera or the lens, you may have serious problems down the line.

So if you think any salt water got in, get them opened up ASAP. Through capillary action, water has a nasty tendency to migrate to where it doesn't belong, and sea water especially can play havoc with the dissimilar metals used in lens mechanisms.

If you are going to send the gear somewhere for service, be sure you alert them to the problem. Time is your enemy.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

Brian Heller wrote:

> If you are going to send the gear somewhere for service, be sure you >alert them to the problem. Time is your enemy.

I've got to agree here. I've made it a rule, if my camera shoots on a beach, then it must go for service after the shoot.

Shooting on the beach itself, is bad enough (open the camera up after a day on the beach, and you will find loads of sand.) Salt Spray is much finer, and Salt water. Yeesh. Is the SR made of Aluminium?

I remember in one of my Camera operator manuals, it suggest that if a camera falls in salt water, to immerse it in a bucket of fresh water until it can be serviced (I think this was written before cameras had integrated electronics).

I would talk to you camera service tech, and think about contacting the insurance company. If the production company is insuring you, and a month or two from now the residual effects of the salt water dunking fry your camera, who is footing the bill?

Ahhh, such lovely thoughts.

Steven Gladstone
CML East Coast List Administrator
Gladstone Films

Immersing in fresh water can make a difference, but has to be done straight away.. a few minutes delay and its *game over*. If the electronics were powered up at the time of the soaking they are liable to be dead, if not, you may stand half a chance..

New motors and circuit boards are very hard to find. The chips used are no longer produced and Arri hold a very small stock ( if any )

If you have sea water inside the lens, forget it..

This said, I've seen cameras survive this treatment and live.

I would call your insurance people and mention the words " write off "

Andy Taylor
Camera Engineer
Arri Media

> suggest that if a camera falls in salt water, to immerse it in a bucket >of fresh water until it can be serviced...

This happened to me when a Steadicam operator took a tumble in knee-deep ocean surf (don't ask!). Arri 3, Steadicam, Cook lens, mag with film etc. went asses for teakettles into the surf. On the advice of a tech at Arri in Burbank, we filled a plastic bucket with spring water from bottles at craft services then added a cup of automotive antifreeze. I lowered the Arri body into the water and sent it to the rental house 2 hours away.

They rec'd the camera, pulled it out and split it apart. After drying the camera with air and a blow dryer, it was shipped to Arri. The camera is still in service today. A couple of components on the boards were replaced. That's all. Lens was a gonner. Film was used in the spot. Steadicam was ok but not great.

The antifreeze stops corrosion from the salt water. Seemed to work really well in this instance.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture and HD First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California

Was their film in the camera? Years ago I was on the set of "Jaw", doing an article for "American Cinematographer". The crew worked all day on the shot where the shark bites of the end of the boat. The boat tipped faster than expected and the onboard Panavision went underwater.The mag was moterboated to shore. the corrosive saltwater was flushed out with freshwater (in a darkroom of course) and hand carried on the plane to the lab. The footage was developed and appeared in the movie.

As long as the film stays wet its ok, if it dries out it all sticks together and is ruined.

Mik Cribben-Steadicam operator

Well, this topic like so many others will have proponents of one approach or another. We for one would agree with the approach Rod Williams presents. In fact we originally got it from Wolfgang Reigl at Arriflex in Burbank . . . with some caveats.

The distilled water and automotive antifreeze approach provides the best possibility of success from a salt water soaking. For the most part, the mechanical parts of the camera, magazine, and lens should fare quite well.

The electronics are another matter.

The mechanical parts should just require thorough cleaning and "de-salting" which water flushing and antifreeze should do. Bearings should be able to survive, though if you disassemble the camera to that point, you may want to replace them anyway. I have not seen a problem with lens elements, as long as you act somewhat quickly.

The problem with the electronics lies with time and moisture. Unless you are 110% sure that you have managed to remove every last bit of salt from every component of the camera's electronics (and you can't be 110% sure), you are looking at problems down the road. The problem with salt, is that the camera may work fine for now, but some time in the future you may be shooting in a damp environment and that atmospheric moisture will reactivate the salt in some electronic component and cause intermittent problems in the camera. And troubleshooting will be a real pain.

So the advice is that the camera needs a full service and salt cleaning AND the boards need to be replaced with new. You might get away with cleaning, but that could open you to a problem in a year (or two, or who knows!). On the other hand, if you're not covered by insurance, you might want to take a chance and save some money. But we don't recommend that approach.

My 2 cents,

Marty Oppenheimer
Oppenheimer Cine Rental
Oppenheimer Camera Products

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