Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting In A Jungle-Forest

Does anybody have any experience in shooting in a jungle?

I might be on a feature drama in a jungle and have no experience in these settings - what should I look out for - how to prepare camera, lighting and health wise?


Matthew Woolf

Which Jungle?

Each region has its own vectors (disease paths). Here are some absolutes:

1) At least two weeks before travel go to a travel medicine doc and get the following vaccinations:
a) Hepatitis A (I.G.)
b) Rabies
c) Typhoid
d) Yellow Fever
e) Tetanus/Diphtheria (Get a booster)
f) Measles (If necessary)
g) Hepatitis B

You WILL experience some side effects. They will pass. Once on location observe the following :

a) Wash your hands OFTEN. Bring antibacterial soap drops. Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes or nose.
b) Drink only bottled water from a reliable source you trust.
c) Use filtered water ( 1-Micron or less) that has been treated with Iodine (Go to a camping store.)
e) Avoid mosquito bites (As if) with DEET. Soldiers sometimes chew matchsticks weeks before being deployed.

Insects don't seem to like sulphur.

f) Prepare your own food. DO NOT EAT WITH THE LOCALS-EEEVVVERRRR. If you have to, watch the preparation.
g) If you are in a malaria risk area, take chloroquine AND continue for two to three months after you return.

Carry antibiotics and other meds in opaque, and water-proof containers. Get a prescription for VicodineES.

Helps with everything from the runs, backaches, headaches, and the runs (Hydrocondone is a synthetic opiate.)

Make sure you're not allergic to any med you bring.

If in Africa, do NOT (I'm sorry to have to bring this up, but..) HAVE SEX WITH ANYONE, ESPECIALLY

PROSTITUTES. AIDS/HIV is out of control. Use good common sense. Remember sun block and sunglasses.

The local ER is as close as the next flight home!

Bob (It's not too late to turn around) Tur

PS-Used to be a guest lecturer at UCLA School of Medicine Center for PreHospital Care, which means I know how to change a BandAid!

Healthwise I would recommend Malarone over Larium if you are in a Malaria area, Obviously, take a Yellow Fever immunization if that exists where you are heading. Dengue is a day biting mosquito so bring plenty of deet and guard against them. I have shot in the rainforests of Borneo and the Amazon and had no equipment problems (Both with Aaton XTR’s).

If you are shooting HD from everything I've experienced the Varicam seems better able to handle humidity than the Sony 900, but I do not want to start a debate on that topic..

Good luck,

Dennis Boni
DP/Steadicam owner/op
IA 600

Health wise in addition :

I've shot in some jungles on tropical islands-no known disease "vectors" there, but the heat and humidity will kill you. If you are in a jungle on a big land mass, you'll need the gamut of vaccinations to be safe. Check with the US State department for their advice on travel to that region. For a complete list of possible vaccinations I can fax you the yellow card on my passport.

At any rate, if you are in the heat and humidity plan on production going slower. Some of the places I've been 45 minutes moving around at a relaxed pace doing light~moderate work was about all that could be done at mid day before taking a serious break. Start early in the day, be ready to start making shots as early as possible, ease up when the sun is highest, and work the later end of the day.

Equipment wise humidity is not your friend, especially if you have an air conditioned space that you retire to at the end of the day. Don't keep equipment in a cool dry space overnight, try to set up an ambient temperature room for gear even if it is really humid in that room. Its much better than paying the heavy price for condensation.

Mark Smith

Hi Matthew,

Having worked on a junglemovie on HD (and some 35mm) in Cambodia and Thailand I have found the following:

It can be very wet even if it doesn’t rain, moisture in the air will condensate at night IN YOUR FLIGHTCASES, rusting and affecting everything inside. So use plenty of silica gel packets inside. Also take care of your grip equipment (camera heads) with WD40. Bring plenty of that as it is not everywhere available.

Use the Pelican style cases for delicate (camera) equipment to protect from rain, insects.

Shooting on HD : bring MANY batteries and chargers because you need to heat the cameras up (moisture) before you can shoot. And leave them on during breaks to avoid condensation or back focus changes.

Depending on the location and the season (Monsoon) it might be rainy, extremely hot and/or dusty. When it rains it can flood the area with 10-30 cms of water in 20 minutes, so take care where you put all your cases. Bring those fold-up tents for cover!

Also : many small creatures will try to find a dry place and could end up in your equipment and cases.

Don’t try to carry everything yourself. Let the production hire local guys that YOU have to instruct how to carry things. ( or everything will arrive toppled over). These guys are cheap and can carry in the heat much better and longer than you. Try to delegate this as much as possible, make one of them Headman (the one that speaks 5 English words). Label all cases very clearly with big words

When you are in a dusty area (dirt roads) remember that this dust is very small and will creep everywhere, magazines, tapes, heads, movements.

Tape the ports/entrances/joints of magazines and tape compartments to avoid anything getting in there.

Personal hygiene :

Disinfect wounds immediately.
Have all your vaccinations.
Drink bottled drinking water and a lot of it and limit the intake of sweet soda’s. Don’t use ice (except in Thailand) and clean the bottle/can opening before drinking.
Bring 2 or 3 extra shirts per day to change, though they will not remain
dry for long!
Wear a hat/cap, depending on the jungle you can wear shorts but be prepared that at a certain time the buggies come out.
Nightshoots are extremely annoying because of the bugs attracted by the light.
Don’t touch your lips and nose/eyes with your hands, many unknown germs around here. And try to wash your hands before eating though that is not always possible.

I’m sure there is more....

Oh, and inform me please when you happen to be in my neighbourhood.

Rob van Gelder
Bangkok, Thailand

>>Healthwise I would recommend Malarone over Larium if you are in a >>Malaria area,

Is that the one you take daily ? I may try it next time, Larium is weird....

Sam Wells

Sam Wells wrote :

>>Is that the one you take daily ? I may try it next time, Larium is weird..

Take the daily one if you can. Larium by my experience is really weird.

I stopped taking it 2 weeks before I was supposed to after one trip because I couldn't handle the nightmares any longer.

You think some productions are night mares, try them with larium added in .

Mark Smith

DP, screener of footage, cutter of scenes this week

I didn't have the nightmares but I felt incredibly dysfunctional each time the day after I took Larium. Hard to describe, exactly.

Sam Wells


Pelican cases, silica gel and fast stock are going to be your new friends .

Phil Savoie
Producer / Cameraman
BBC Natural History Unit

>>The local ER is as close as the next flight home!

Safety safety safety.

What a great post; but I think this last line was the most important. Read it 8 or 10 times and don't forget it.

Best Regards,
Matthew Alcorn

Sam Wells :

>>I didn't have the nightmares but I felt incredibly dysfunctional each >>time the day after I took Larium.

For me larium is out of the question as a prophylactic, but you can keep it handy if you or one of your crew or locals gets a serious malaria attack - it happened to my local crew chief on a New Guinea shoot in ´97, we gave him maximum dose and it worked wonders (in that part of the world they have the nastiest version of malaria (falparcium) that could kill you in 6 days if left untreated).

Malarone is expensive but well worth it, compared to the side effects of Larium.

You take them 7 days before ,during and 7 days after you exit the place.

Best regards

Jens Jakob Thorsen
Director of Photography

I've done some asian jungle, some central American jungle and some Indian subcontinental jungle in addition to other people's comments I offer the following from a light-skinned redhead

Wear long sleeves - roll them up, maybe, but wear long sleeves. When the mosquitos come, you want to be able to put 100 per cent deet on your clothes, NOT on your skin. There is a milder deet lotion you can use on skin, but if you can scare them off before they get to your skin, so much the better shorts may be cooler, but they don’t protect you from scratches, scrapes, plants with thorns, bugs, and ...more importantly, the easily acquired infections you can get in those scratches - stick with long pants cotton is nicer to the skin than most of the synthetics a lot of jungle is dry savannah, most of what people think of as jungle is actually rainforest - make sure you know what it is like where you are going make sure you have more than one pair of boots so when one pair is totally soaked, either with sweat or nasty brown water, you can wear the others I much prefer boots that protect me from ankle twisting re: Larium - some people are slightly bothered by it, some people have more major reactions, some people are not bothered at all. I can take it without ill effect (so far) by the way, it is good to carry antibiotics (cipro is a good choice) but don't take them unless you have had problems for a couple of days - they don't do anything against virus but you might just make whatever else is swimming around your guts resistant which is a bad thing if you do have to resort to antibiotics, take the full course – ALWAYS if you stop short, you can really get yourself in trouble

NOTE : MANY ANTIBIOTICS MAKE YOU PHOTOSENSITIVE so that even with SPF 30 suncream you can get a hell of a sunburn (see note about long sleeves and hat)

Note : cipro is from the same chemical family as Lariam and QUIXIN – if you have a bad reaction to one, you might have a bad reaction to one of the others buy a box of those little plastic tubes of synthetic tears that contact-wearers use - it is important to be able to rinse something out of your eye with clean sterile water. the little tubes are much better than a bottle - each one you open is sterile and they are cheap and easy to pack

I ALWAYS wear a hat, drink water - lots of it, and only get it from sealed bottles, and be careful - I was on a film in India where I noticed the catering crew re-filling and re-capping the water bottles

I carry a little pump filter for emergencies - if you buy one, make sure you know how to use it and how to test it (with food colouring provided) in addition to amoebas, you are trying to filter out giardia and clyptosporidium spores which can all be found in clear looking hotel tap water sometimes...there was a giardia scare in Russia when I was working there - it is not just a rural problem.

I do not carry Kaopectate - usually, if something wants out that badly, you are better off letting it out.

I have found that in many cases, chewing pepto bismol tablets will alleviate some of those squirty symptoms and also some gas pressure issues...with little downside risk bring a thermometer so you can tell if you are getting a fever.

Me, I ALWAYS eat with the locals - I seem to get sick about as often as the people I am travelling with who don't eat with the locals and I have a LOT more fun...mind you, I don't fear getting sick once in a while.

All these dire warnings aside - go have fun!!! I ALWAYS enjoy those trips, even when the weather is bad and it is hot and nasty and I get sick...half of the reason some of us are in this game is for the experiences that "civilians" never get to have.

Mark Weingartner
LA based but passport-ready

>>Mark gives a lot of good advice but with regard to Larium or Malarone it >>is an easy choice :

Larium is known to have so many side effects with so many people, and Malarone which is rather newer here in the states, has next to no side effects and just the same level of protection. At least talk to a Tropical Disease.

Specialist about it. I always tolerated the Larium pretty well, and I shot a PBS show on the subject of infectious disease so we were right at the center of the storm. Malarone is a one a day and you only need take it for a week after you leave the Malaria area. Larium is a once a week but you need to take it for an entire month once out of the Malaria zone.

Dennis Boni
DP/Steadicam Owner/op

Agreeing with Dennis's points - I'm not advocating lariam so much as elaborating on the side effect spread - people's opinions on their side effects vary as the effects vary.

Check with executive health or one of the companies that do inoculations and vaccines for world travellers - you can find them on the web if you don’t have a doctor from whom you want to ask for a referral different malaria pills are better or worse for the strains of malaria found in different places the pills don't make you immune, by the way - they make you resistant and they lessen the effects of malaria if it does catch hold of you.

Of course none of these pills or shots will protect you from a drunk taxi driver, here or abroad.

Mark Weingartner
LA based

I understand that many using gear subject to damp and/or salt air are applying a product called "corrosion x" liberally. The oil treatment does help but may also attract and hold grime.

See for product description.

David Campbell

Greetings David,

Better late than ever, as that job got postponed four months your answer comes in handy somehow. Will look into it at the end of the month once

I return from my current job..


Emmanuel, somewhere in Switzerland.Assistant Caméra - Camera Assistant -
European based
+491608036889 - +447910034443

Speaking of Jungles .....I do alot of shooting in the 90+ % humidity in Key West. I have come across some old timers in the electronic and sound industry here that recommend a product called DeoxIT. It's available locally at Radio Shack and directly at

There are several different products for specific uses…One for prevention , one for rejuvenation etc etc,. I have not used it extensively enough yet so I cannot give you all a beta test report yet.


Steve Panariello
Director of Photography / Producer
Digital Island Media

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