Shooting Robots in Sub-Freezing Temperatures, Part II

In Notes From the Set by Rod Santiano3 Comments

Well, I didn’t have to bear the -8ºF temperatures after all. We were able to get the shots we needed in the “cooler” rather than the freezer. Someone is watching over me, for sure.

In my last post, I mentioned a sequence of the project that I referred to as the “life of a pallet” and had wished that I could show you some video. Here it is below. I’m at the Chicago Midway Airport right now writing this post and have a few hours to wait for my flight home so I quickly cut together something for you to look at. I have not color corrected this and I don’t have headphones so the sound is just what it is. Most of the footage you will see was shot at 6400 ISO with existing lighting—which wasn’t much at all. It was pretty dark in the cooler. The shots in the loading dock were shot at either 800 or 1600 ISO. The 6400 ISO footage is pretty noisy, but I can’t complain too much because other cameras would’ve probably been a lot noisier.

We never broke out the HVX-200. There was really no point. I spent most of the morning today getting shots of the workers doing their thing. Lots of shallow depth of field shots—because you can it so easily with the 5D. We also used a Glidetrack for many of the shots. In fact, we pretty much stayed on it for every shot that wasn’t handheld. The Glidetrack is pretty sweet. Looking at it, you wouldn’t think it would be that useful for use as a dolly, but if you choose and compose your shots appropriately, it’s a pretty effective tool to get some great moving shots that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

All in all, it was a nice little shoot. I actually didn’t have to do any lighting because of the nature of everything we were shooting. We had planned to do some nicely lit sit-down interviews but the occasion never arose. I also had a couple of issues with the Glidetrack: 1) It seemed to work less fluidly in the freezing temperatures; and 2) Without some kind of support on either end of the track, it tended to sink, or teeter, when the camera would go to the ends of the track. I’m not sure if it was because of the head it was mounted to wasn’t able to tighten down enough or if it really just needs additional support on the ends because it becomes, in effect, a big lever. Still, a great piece of equipment.

I am extremely happy with the 5D—even with its drawbacks in relation to shooting video in an SLR body (i.e. difficult follow focusing, almost jimmy rigged sound recording setup, unusual handling). I didn’t use any of the rigs available out there like the Red Rock Micro or Zacuto systems. I actually used the Red Rock Micro “Captain Stubling” (pictured here) last week with the 7D and actually preferred shooting without it. It has its benefits in certain situations, but I mostly found it annoying. I can see myself using it in a narrative project for handheld shots, but for shooting docu-style, I think I like going naked better (bow chika wow wow). Opinion subject to change, of course. Come to think of it, I just remembered that my first video camera was a Hi8 Canon A1 (back in 1990) which had an SLR-type grip in addition to the usual hand grip on most video cameras. Maybe that’s why I felt so comfortable with it? Interesting.

UPDATE (11/8/2011):
I finally got copies of the finished videos we made.  Click links below to watch them!

Preferred Freezer: Chicago II
Preferred Freezer: Dear Chicago

UPDATE (3/2/2012):
I have to say that my dislike of rigs as mentioned above was premature.  As I still dislike handheld rigs like I mentioned, I have to express my like for shoulder rigs, such as the  Jag35 Field Runner, or even the Street Runner.


  1. Come on, -8ºF? You can only pray Alaska will be so kind! I love the way this stuff looks. Particularly like the “life of a palette” section. Many nice, creative shots throughout, though. Great job!

    RE: the DSLR rigs, I’ve noticed they really smooth the shots out compared to mom chick wow wow, but they are a bit awkward.

    1. Author

      Yeah, I’m a bit worried about the cold ;) And thanks for your compliments. About the rigs, I agree to a point. I’ve been told by many that I have a steady hand when it comes to shooting handheld but DSLRs without image stabilizing lenses tend to show a lot of vibration from normal operation; so using a rig definitely helps in that regard. But if I have a lens with I.S., I’m usually better off without. To each their own, I guess!

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