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How Canadian Film Crews Keep Cameras Rolling in Deep Freeze

Too cold to shoot outdoors? Not in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, where hydraulic fluid heaters and diesel fuel warmers save the shooting day.

TORONTO -- Does severe cold weather shut down Canadian film and TV sets? Mike Harwood just smiles.

"It may sound corny, but the show must go on," Harwood, national director, technical support and development at William F. White International, the Canadian equipment supply giant, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, as he offered cold weather shooting tips to keep rental equipment working.

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Plunging Toronto temperatures reached –35 C to –40 C on Tuesday, with the weatherman warning the wind chill will freeze exposed skin in under five minutes.

"We're equipped to keep shooting. We're aware of the problems. And we will modify equipment to keep working in the extremes," Harwood insisted.

For starters, Canadian crews ensure rental equipment doesn't get too cold in the first place by using battery-powered heaters, hydraulic fluid heaters and diesel fuel warmers.

That stops hydraulic fluid in dollies, for example, from turning to gel and causing camera vibration. "We basically put block heaters in our camera dollies to keep (hydraulic) fluid flowing correctly," Harwood said.

Similarly, generator fuel that doesn't flow may cause film flicker because of an intermittent power supply impacting lighting systems. Hydraulic fluid heaters keep the fuel flowing through generators and other rental equipment.

Canadian techies also work to ensure camera lens don't get cold, and that camera batteries and power supplies for lighting systems remain charged through the coldest days. Help comes from hair dryers and cooler bags with heating packs used to keep equipment warm on set. And movie lights may be used to keep light ballasts warm, so giant lighting systems can easily crank up in the cold.

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Elsewhere, exterior propane heaters and tents are used to keep equipment, cast and the director and producers around a video monitor warm. Craft services keeps crews fattened up with hot soups and chilies to endure long stretches outside. Crew members also arrive on set in head-to-toe clothing that includes battery-powered socks and vests with heating elements.

Forecasters are predicting an end to the swirling polar vortex gripping much of North America, easing the impact of the cold snap.