Cinematographer and DoP Alister Chapman specialises in shooting severe and extreme weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, and has recently returned from putting his 4K cameras to the test in extreme cold in northern Norway shooting the northern lights.
He has been particularly pleased with how well his Sony F5 and add-on Raw recorder has worked in the extremely cold temperatures, down to -36ºC overnight when he was shooting the Aurora.
The camera had to be kept outside to avoid condensation, which would have caused even more damage. However, this meant that the LCD was a little sluggish, as all LCDs are in the extreme cold. Indeed, when it gets to -38ºC, LCDs can break. “If you start seeing blue in the corner of your LCD panel, it is getting close to freezing and can shatter,” he warned.
When the camera was turned on in the morning, it showed an error message that it was too hot – it didn’t understand such a cold temperature. However, a few minutes with the battery in cured that. Even in such extreme cold, he could get three to four hours from a 150Wh battery.
The sensor of the F5 is sensitive enough to be able to shoot the effects of the Aurora in realtime – almost all other videos of the northern lights are timelapse images (or horrendously noisy). Combined with the extra resolution, it gives incredible pictures of the rapid movement of the lights, which he showed on the big screen in 4K at BVE in London last week.
“The realtime Aurora images are noisy,” he admitted, “but I am operating the camera at its limits.”
Chapman shoots 4K “because it looks really, really good, and it future proofs my content, because I shoot a lot of stock footage.” He was an early adopter of HD, and video shot 10 years ago in HD is still making him a good income.
Also, there aren’t many people shooting hurricanes and tornadoes in 4K, so it helps differentiate his footage further, and “by starting at 4K, you get very nice looking HD pictures,” he said.
His clients include National Geographic, BBC Natural History and Discovery.
By David Fox