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Tips for Filming in the Snow

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

The snow is a tricky proposition for a digital video filmmaker, so here are a few things to keep in mind to help your shoot along.

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    Weather Conditions

    Mark of an experienced videographer is their ability to work in any condition. It does not matter if you are videotaping your child’s first romp through the snow or filming a theatrical documentary about professional snowboarding, you need to know how to respond to difficult weather conditions. Snow presents some of the most unique challenges, mainly because of its expansive nature. There are a few things to keep in mind that will help make your snow shoot a successful one.

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    Solar White

    The first thing that you have to remember is that there is going to be a bright white blanket tucking in almost everything in sight. Even if it is not that thick or evenly distributed you can still expect that the majority of surfaces within visual range are going to have snow on them. Snow is one of the purest substances because it has a standard appearance that is always universal. This means that on camera the snow, even if it has been altered by the environment for which it is resting on, has to be a perfect white. White balance is absolutely critical then when filming in snow. It needs to be checked and rechecked, and absolutely each different lighting sequence must be compensated for. Make sure to use a bright white board and not something you find in the environment. If you have an off white balance your entire scene is going to be useless.

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    Bright Lights

    You can expect for the snow to reflect the light brighter than most surfaces. This is going to be hard on the camera itself because there are going to be significant bright spots on camera. Try to position yourself at an angle when there is less direct light hitting the snow. You are likely going to have to lower the iris, but only do this if there is a significant amount of snow in the frame.

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    Snow Falling on Cedar

    If you are filming while the snow is actually falling, you are going to have some difficulty. It is harder to address than rain because it is impossible to make more discreet. You can try to address it similar to rain by back lighting it with an outdoor light kit. This will make the snow stand out and add dramatics. If you light the subjects and keep the snow dark you are going to downplay it, but the likelihood is that the snow is going to pick up at least some traces of the light.

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    The solid color is difficult on camera so you may want to make sure that you keep a number of objects in the frame. It is hard to create dynamic images when there is a bright color marking the background and foreground. This depletes the depth of image and makes it look dull and lifeless. Since you are not going to be using a high definition film camera you are going to have to use what you have. Make sure to employ elements of the Z-axis, as well as get action both close to the camera and far away. Trees to a good job of adding a series of layers to the depth of the image.

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    Rely on Principles

    The most important thing to remember is that snow is going to limit what you can do with video images, so you have to be creative. You will know when an image looks below par so try and use your instincts for framing a better video.