Keep Your Cool During a Summer Video Shoot

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It’s a beautiful day and the sun is shining, with not a cloud in the sky, beaming down plenty of light for almost limitless depth-of-field for your footage. While all that sunshine can produce wonderful exposures, it may not be so great for your health or for the well-being of your equipment. Read on for some ideas on how to beat the heat during a summer shoot.

Desert film shoot: hot!

Camera Crew

Starting with the very basics, outfit yourself with a pair of sunglasses with a retaining leash and at least a lighter-color baseball cap to keep the sun off your face and head. For truly scorching days or for multi-day exteriors, add a detachable neck drape to your cap or look for a safari-style topper like these outback-style or mesh-vented hats from Glacier Glove. Loose, lightweight clothing in paler colors works well and it’s safer to be covered up against sunburn than to wear skimpier styles. Rip-stop hiking pants that zip off to become shorts are a great solution for locations with wide temperature swings. Sandals and flip-flops are for the beach and have no place on a set—protect and support your feet with light hiking boots or breathable cross-training sneakers. When it’s hot and sticky, try dampening a bandana with an astringent skin cleanser like Sea Breeze and draping it around your neck for a quick cooldown.

Shooting outdoors

Hydrate  Water, water everywhere… keep drinking water and electrolyte-replacement drinks close at hand to ward off thirst and replace lost sodium and be aware that even cooler, dry, sunny days can be deceptively dehydrating. Keep your crew replenished by toting water in the folding Creative Outdoor Big Wheel Cooler Wagon. The rugged Pelican 45QW Wheeled Cooler boasts ice retention up to a whopping 10 days, heavy-duty wheels, and most impressively, a bear-resistant design that’s just the thing for your wilderness reality show!

Cameras  The best insurance against an overheated camera on a distant location shoot is to bring a backup camera body and/or backup camera circuit boards with you. Whether or not you can budget for a backup camera, strive to keep your camera from overheating in the first place by keeping it shaded and making sure any fan vents and cooling sinks remain unobstructed to prevent shutdowns.

Internal camera fans  Know if your camera has an adjustable fan and learn how to choose the right setting before heading out, since we all know how non-intuitive and maze-like camera menus can be sometimes. AJA Cion, ARRI, Canon pro cine, RED DSMC2, and Panasonic VariCam LT cameras have selectable fan levels and the Sony VENICE fan unit can be replaced in the field, if need be.

Shade  If you can, rig an umbrella or at least a flag like this Matthews 4 x 4' floppy cutter to shelter your operator and the camera. Umbrellas can be mounted on a dolly for tracking shots or for quick repositioning, while pop-up tents can shade your camera cart and other gear. Check out the 84" tilting Photek Sunbuster Plus, the 51" ORCA Production Umbrella with both a 3/8"-16 stud and a mounting clamp, or the Easyrig Umbrella, designed for the Minimax support system. Diffusion like this Matthews 4 x 4' silk can also help to cut harsh glare and shadows on your talent while providing some relief from the sun.

Photek Sunbuster Plus 84"
ORCA Production Umbrella

A dark environment is a must for DITs (digital imaging technicians) to see the transmitted camera feed clearly, so you’ll usually find them ensconced in a black tent. Backstage Equipment’s HD DIT Tent for Mag Carts combines a black interior and white exterior with a mesh window to help reduce the temperature inside. This DIT tent can also be used for a video village, is designed to fasten to a converted Magliner Junior and requires BE’s Umbrella Holder.

Mag DIT HD Tent

Covers  While ARRI cameras and the Sony VENICE are gray (18% perhaps?), most pro video cameras are a stylish, basic black, suitable for not distracting the actors but not the best for staying cool. Check out Porta Brace’s CWC-2 Breathable White Camera Cover or camRade’s DS 2 desertSuit to deflect heat away from your camera. Since summer is also synonymous with rainy season in many locations, always keep a fitted rain cover or an all-purpose cover like the Harrison Standby Cover on hand. Should you find yourself working in a summer downpour or under a dreaded rain machine, keep dry with the Sachtler rain poncho.

Space blankets offer a quick, easy solution for shielding your camera from the sun’s rays. Spend some time in pre-production (“what pre-production days?” you say) to fold and gaffer-tape a space blanket into a loosely fitted cover for your camera.

Reduce Glare   Minimize glare on your viewing screen with a fitted monitor Sun Shade, or use the Hoodman Wraparound Viewfinder Hood with a universal design that fits 3 to 7" EVFs .

Wraparound EVF Hood
6 to 7" LCD Sun Shade

Condensation  Bringing your camera into a cool air-conditioned studio from a hot, humid location, or vice versa, can cause condensation in your gear. Place your camera and lens in a sealed plastic bag when brought inside/outside so that condensation forms on the bag, not your gear. Leave your gear in a shaded spot the same temperature as your set rather than bringing it inside during meal breaks. Reusable dehumidifier packs can help speed up moisture removal when placed in a case.

Fan-cooled gear  Look for fan-cooled accessories like these V-mount and Gold Mount ALEXA Mini power distribution plates from Tilta and cooling pads for your on-set laptop, such as the Thermaltake Massive 14.

And for the absolute hottest locations, remember that motion picture film cameras use a more mechanical than electronic process that can hold up better than the electronics of video capture in scorching heat.

What’s the hottest set you’ve ever been on? Please share below and peruse the B&H Photo website for all your pro video needs or stop by and cool off in the B&H SuperStore.

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