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25/11/2009

Arctic Epic Seeks Production Funds

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Battling intense cold in one of the world's most hostile places has proved less of a challenge than getting a funding package together to bring a major TV environmental project through to completion.
TV journalist Brian Black - who, in 1996 became the first environment correspondent in the ITV network and who now specialises in natural history and heritage film making - has completed several voyages to the High Arctic, each one building on the previous to accumulate an acute first hand knowledge of the effects of climate change in this remote region.
Having created the independent TV production company that was to become Evergreen Media Ltd, he is now determined to show what is happening to the Greenland ice-cap and "how it will affect us all in time".
However, while broadcasters have been approached, the producers are currently seeking a sponsor to bring it all to the screens.
Explaining how complex and often dangerous the work was, the Co Down-based TV journalist said: "Much of my recording is done in hostile environments so generally I bring along a back-up camera just in case.
"At present I am using a Canon XHA1 on the HD setting which produces excellent images," he said, explaining that, if he goes into a full scale production it would be necessary to work on a professional standard.
"However, the mini-dv format is fine for expedition filming where the sequences may not be repeatable or when I head into the mountains where weight in my back-pack has to be kept to a minimum."
Of course, intense cold is obviously a major consideration so protecting the camera is important: "On the Arctic trips I keep it snug inside the boat's dog-house with two camera batteries in my pockets," he said.
Indeed, other innovation (pictured here) is needed too, the camera recording a first pass through Warming Island Passage shows another important feature – a bean bag.
"Tripods are of little use on a boat but the bean bag covers a multitude of uses and allows me to set up the camera while I'm on the wheel.
"I also have a Cavision R15P80B shoulder brace for wildlife shots," he continued.
"The big disadvantage of viewfinder screens on mini-cams is that the image can't be seen in extremely bright conditions so I generally tape a sun-shade around it to cut out the glare.
"Filters are important although sometimes it is enough to use the 1/32 ND on the camera itself.
"In intense conditions and especially at sea, a polariser is essential especially if filming sea creatures like whales and dolphins," he explained.
It is also important to check the condition of camera tapes which he said are always a worry in case the cold makes them brittle: "Constant checking is important although so far I have not had any problems.
"On one occasion I lost a camera when it was torn off my shoulder in a glacier collapse and trashed under boulders and when we retrieved the broken bits the tape was still inside.
"Technicians at UTV were able to remove the tape and play out the images thus saving the sequence," he said, also noting that, for stills work he uses a Canon EOS40D with a selection of lenses and filters.
Apart from the technical aspect, the sailing expedition to the High Arctic aboard his boat Caelan to shoot material for the pilot on climate change, meant that natural history producer and cameraman Brian Black also scored a 'world first'.
With his crew he had returned to East Greenland to explore new areas of the coastline, accessible for the first time ever due to the absence of pack-ice, a significant sign of global warming.
"Temperature rise is happening faster here than anywhere else in the world and we simply don't know what that's going to do - not just to the Gulf Stream which keeps us warm in winter but also to sea-levels world-wide."
A more detailed account of Caelan's Arctic journey will appeared in the November edition of Yachting Monthly.
(BMcC/GK)
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