Can you imagine moving your television studio to the deepest chasm in the world, in Georgia, or to the North Pole? How about the Omani desert in the middle of August or Everest’s Camp Three?
Although for many of us surviving in these extreme places alone would be sufficient, some professionals have been transporting their television equipment there for years just to film these experiences.
This is the case of Emilio Valdés, a renowned director of photography, who has been shooting in the most inhospitable regions of the world for eleven years. He participated in Desafío Extremo, a seven-season documentary series starring Jesús Calleja, which became a television phenomenon in Spain. He is now immersed in the recording of Planeta Calleja, Volando Voy or Río Salvaje, programmes with similar themes.
Emilio Valdés is an essential part of the ZANSKAR factory, a production company that has managed to attract the attention of many other production houses around the world. While the general trend of giants like BBC or National Geographic is to hire specialised equipment to record on a specific type of extreme terrain, be it the desert or eight-thousand-metre peaks, Emilio Valdés and his team are experts in filming on any location on the planet. That’s where his exceptional nature lies. “Perhaps we are the only people in the world who can do this”, says Valdés.
75 kilometres of hot air ballooning above the Amazon River (beating world records, incidentally), diving with white sharks in South Africa, expeditions to the Everest, Himalayas or Kilimanjaro, visits to Lapland under extreme temperatures, expeditions to the Vanuatu, one of the most violent volcanoes in the world, or various routes through the most extensive deserts on the planet, are just some of his feats.
As can be expected, Emilio Valdés takes his technical equipment to the extreme during these trips. His first premise, when choosing it, is that it should be operational and easily transportable. Thanks to his versatility as a cameraman, Valdés knows down to a T how each element of its equipment responds to any adverse weather and how to explain what the requirements are to be used in these conditions.
One mantra he insists on is the need to bring duplicate equipment to any trip, including cameras, microphones, lenses or cards, due to the endless number of risks to which they are exposed. It’s the best antidote against not being able to complete the recording.
In the camera field, Emilio Valdés records 80% of his scenes with the Canon C300 camera. Another model that stands out is the Sony FS7, but he admits that he has no preference for any brand in particular. Several models that meet his professional quality requirements, both regarding image and sound, can be found on the market. In recent years, he has recorded with more than eight different cameras. With this background, Valdés recognises what requirements a camera must meet to be used in extreme situations:
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