Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cold Weather Part Deux

 First of all, a congratulations to my old compadre Dolly Grip Frank Boone and Key Grip Eddie Evans on the success of The Walking Dead.  Arguably the best show on television, it is consistently compelling and, most importantly, the dolly work is top notch. I watched the second season in practically one sitting on Amazon and I save the third season episodes for my long turnarounds with the Captain. Nice job boys This is one of the shows I wish I'd worked on ( if I had it in me to do tv anymore). If you haven't watched this show, do yourself a favor and catch up. Nice work, Frank!
   Now, back to the job at hand. We have covered what to wear in cold climates, but now need to give some tips on how to keep your machine working when it gets cold. As I've mentioned, I have never worked in temps below 20 degrees or so, so I depend on those of you who regularly work in those temps to give us some tips on how to keep your machines working. For myself, I know that when Winter sets in, I let my Chapman rep know that I need a little special consideration. They will replace the normal hydraulic fluid with very thin fluid. The heaters on Chapman dollies are also helpful, but only until you are well into the day. They only work if you bleed the air, and plug the dolly in. Not much help past call on a brisk day. I know my friends in Canada have techniques they use for keeping the fluid warm during the day ( battery powered heaters etc) but I have never had to look for these products in the states. What other tips do those of you in cold climates have for us?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Cold Weather Work

  This post grew out of a conversation between Wick and Sanjay about an upcoming job Sanjay has in Poland and Germany. As I know very little about extremely  cold working conditions (anything under 15 degrees F or so, it's fortunate that Wick does. We have a few other readers and contributers who are used to this kind of cold. Please send in any suggestions or posts you have on the subject. Thanks, D.

I got to talking with Sanjay Sami today about working in the cold. He’s going to be on the German-Poland border in January and February, and is looking for tips on how to stay warm in that kind of winter climate. There are two things that really affect us on set in the winter. One is staying flexible enough under those layers of clothing to keep moving and doing the work that we do without sweating so much that when we do come to a standstill, we’re freezing in our own sweat. The other is of course staying warm while we’re just standing around waiting for anything to happen.

The main thing is to dress in layers, and adjust your coverage according to how hard you’re working. This can’t be stressed enough, and I think most of us understand it in the abstract.  This should extend to wearing double or even triple layers of socks, with the ones nearest your feet being thin and chosen for their ability to wick sweat and condensation away from your skin and into the next layers. Same thing for underwear, both tops and bottoms. I’m a fan of silk for those first layers. It seems to adjust best to the body temperature and exterior temperature changes, removes moisture quickly and dries quickly too. After that, I prefer wool over cotton for the next layer, and finally a wind-blocking outer shell, something like a Carhardt coverall or two-piece Thinsulate snow pants and jacket. Also always keep your head warm and your ears covered - wear a hat or a balaclava. I picked up an arctic expedition hood with a zippered face cover several years and that’s been my salvation several times.  It’s made with Thinsulate and so is an excellent wind block, and lets me adjust the amount of coverage I want or need pretty much as I please. It also doesn’t interfere with radios, and I can keep my nose covered without fogging my glasses.

Footwear is a tough one, especially for dolly work. Again, you have the “standing around vs moving around and controlling a dolly at the same time” problem.  I’ve settled on some regular insulated boots (Thinsulate again) that are big enough to accommodate the extra layers of socks, and for extreme weather, I got some LaCrosse “Frankenstein” boots that are supposedly guaranteed to –70 Celsius. I have never really been happy with any solution for footwear, and get chilly feet no matter what I do. Fortunately, once I  got the LaCrosse boots, they seemed to have the same effect as carrying an umbrella – once I had them with me, I didn’t worked outdoors in heavy snow or extreme temperatures again. Or at least for a few years, then the magic wore off in Poland.

Gloves are of course another weak spot.  I generally prefer some wool rock climbing gloves, with all five fingers open, and another glove or better yet, a mitten, over that.

Another thing is to be aware of the warning signs of hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. Read up on them in any first aid manual, if you’re not sure what warning signs to look for in yourself and in others.

I never really had any experience with pocket warmers, or electric socks, or any other fancy gadgets, and am curious if anybody has recommendations or advice with that sort of stuff. The one thing I will say is that cold will suck the life out of batteries, like the one in your phone. Carry it on you, in an inside pocket, so it doesn’t freeze and dump all it’s data while sitting in your car or backpack in the truck. 

Sanjay’s looking for some serious input and advice. He’ll be in the middle of nowhere, and it can get nasty there (0° Celsius is the average high for January / February, and it can get much colder (-20° c. is not uncommon). Add in wind and snow, with the snow having started in December or late November, and as you can see, it’s not a fun place to be outdoors all day.  What do our brothers and sisters recommend, aside from calling in sick?