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Polar Bears in Trafalgar Square

Polar Bears in Trafalgar Square

An initiative was formed to create a life-sized ice sculpture of a polar bear in Trafalgar Square and then in a number of major cities worldwide. These will be powerful, iconic, emotive events which bring home the beauty and fragility of the Arctic to people everywhere.

VMI supplied HD equipment for the Arctic leg of the project to try to take pictures of wild Polar Bears in their natural habitat using XDCAM HD. Back in the UK, the Ice sculpture was made in the expectation that usual UK inclement weather would cause the Polar Bear Ice sculpture to melt to leave behind a brinze sculpture and a pool of water, and then the cold snap happened...

On December 11, sculptor Mark Coreth will carved a life-sized ice sculpture of a hunting polar bear in Trafalgar Square, just outside the National Gallery. Anyone could touch it when complete and, thanks to the action of their hands and the hopefully clement London weather, the plan was that it will melt over the ten days after, leaving just a bronze skeleton in its wake.

For Coreth that’s the whole point, the goal of the Ice Bear Project being to highlight the dangers of global warming and the impact it has on fragile ecosystems worldwide.

Looking Glass Films has been tracking the project since its inception for a forthcoming documentary, part of which involved hiring a Sony PDW-700 from VMI for a seven-day shoot trying to find polar bear on Baffin Island.

“We wanted to shoot in HD, but more importantly we needed kit that would operate in temperatures as low as -25 degrees C,” says Producer, Mary Hare. “It also needed to be low maintenance and have long battery life, as you don’t want something breaking down when you’re a flight away from civilisation.”

DoP Ollie Parker remembers many discussions regarding exactly what camera to use, in the end choosing XDCAM as he wanted to be file-based but, as he was shooting solo, didn’t want to be constantly downloading cards in the harsh environment. “When the weather gave us the opportunity to shoot we’d be out for 14-16 hours at a stretch so we needed a lot of storage,” he says.

He was impressed by the camera’s performance too (which he coupled with a “very good” Canon HJ22 lens), saying it was very quick to set up and get running. “The whites are incredibly bright in that environment, but I was able to drop down a stop and a half without losing highlights or anything in the midtones,” he adds.

And did they get to see a polar bear as they ranged out on skidoo with their guides on Baffin Island? Only one and right at the end of the shoot. Hopefully the Ice Bear Project, which the team hopes to roll out to cities worldwide, will help to raise awareness of the problems the bears and the rest of the planet’s ecosystems face, otherwise future generations – be they cameramen or otherwise – might not even be that lucky.

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