1st AC Andreas Erben reports from the shoot of the film ‘Girl on Ice’ in Murmansk, located in the north-western part of Russia. He used two Wireless Lens Control Systems from Chrosziel: MagNum and DigiFox. But before they were to be used, they had to prove their suitability for the extreme and rough weather conditions which are found usually in Russia.

“Even before the shoot, we carried out extensive tests in Germany. For us, it was very important that the equipment will work reliably every time, especially in icy winds, temperatures of up to minus 30° Celsius and abundant snowfall. That’s why we had extensively tested the Chrosziel wireless LCS equipment. We put the MagNum and DigiFox in a cold storage and freezing facility as well in refrigeration trucks. At temperatures up to minus 27° Celsius we made a lot of comparative reviews with other common systems.”

Andreas continued, “Finally, we chose the Chrosziel systems. On set, the products also kept what they had promised during the tests. In combination with Betz motors, we were very pleased with the excellent precision and the strong throughput at high positioning speed. This has benefited us at the low temperatures and quite large lens diameters of the HAWK anamorphic lens. Also, the calibration of the optics could be carried out very gently: the reaction to the stops is instantaneous, so that only very small loading forces occur. The power supply and the display of the remaining battery capacities is very reliable even in extreme cold.”

According to Erben, the inhospitable environmental conditions in Murmansk set great demands on the equipment: “During shooting, icy winds mixed with snow often blew. Then the hand units were quickly covered with a layer of ice. There were situations where I wished I could have spared our LCS equipment, but around 90 percent of our recordings were taken with a hand-held camera. That’s why I was particularly dependent on the perfect functioning of my wireless system. The MagNum didn’t fail, even when moving fast through the snowy set and during occasional falls into the deep snow. It even performed very well when completely dusted with snow. Unfortunately, a very careful treatment of the equipment could not always be guaranteed.”

It wasn’t only during outdoor shooting that the systems were exposed to extreme conditions. Andreas continued: “When changing from outdoor freezing temperatures into warm interiors, the warm-up phase in the vacuum bag was sometimes very short. Large temperature fluctuations were a challenge for all camera and accessory electronics. Overall, MagNum and DigiFox have handled this without any problems.“

Also, the transport was one of the major challenges: “The bad road conditions in the north of Russia have put a lot of strain on all of us and the equipment. On the permanent frosted roads, deep potholes were badly or not at all recognizable. But our Russian drivers were not very interested in these conditions while dashing through the Russian snow. The result: Except the Chrosziel LCS equipment many add-on pieces of the cameras did not survive the hours of being tossed around on rough roads.”

Because time plays an important role in filming, the crew often had to improvise: “During one of our popular ‘fast-paced action scenes’, the equipment was transported to the last location in the team bus. After the last scenes had been wrapped, it suddenly happened. Caused by a mistake while loading the equipment, the MagNum hand unit fell down around 1.5 meters (5 feet) onto the stairs of the team bus and then into the snow. I thought: ‘that’s it – the nice hand unit is broken’. But after an in-depth analysis we got a big surprise. Flawless functionality and not even a scratch in the housing. Probably some luck in the game but, in any case, a big thanks to the capable constructors!”

Erben sums up: “Especially because of the difficult conditions in Russia, the Chrosziel LCS units were the right choice for us. Even on our upcoming projects, they will certainly enable us to work in a practical and pleasant manner. Thanks to the comfortable software update process, it will be easy to expand the functionality of the MagNum. For example, I am very glad that I can read the measured values of my Cine Tapes simultaneously on the display of the hand unit now. I just needed the current firmware package and an additional cable on the camera which transmits the radio signals of the CT display from the Motor Control Unit to the handset. This is a great help especially with long hand camera settings in narrow subjects. Other useful features will surely follow.

In this context, I would like to highlight the direct and very productive contact with the technical developers at Chrosziel. They solved any challenges reliably and included individual wishes in firmware and hardware development! Overall, the LCS products proved very reliable. I definitely can recommend Chrosziel products.”

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