Filming In A Coal MineLast week I led a Jilbee film crew to the Ruhr region of Germany to film in a coal mine.

The topic was ‘Health and Safety during mining’ and the videos we filmed will be a part of Web Based Trainings we are building for Germany’s largest mining company.

Filming in such an enclosed and dark space is a singular experience and there are many lessons we drew.

Here are the top ones.

1. Physical safety comes first

Despite modern advances, a coal mine is still a dangerous place and safety of our crew has to be our top responsibility. We had to make sure that we had protective clothing including boots, overalls and helmets. Since we were mainly handling cameras and not drilling equipment we could do without the special gloves, goggles, etc. Still things can go wrong and taking extra care of everything to ensure there are no accidents was our most important lessons.

Physical Safety Comes First - Filming In A Coal Mine

2. Special equipment needed

Filming in a mine requires special equipment. Special camera lenses and lights are required. Equipment needs to be sturdier as well as water and dust resistant as much as possible. Moving shots can be shaky and sometimes need to be compensated for with additional equipment.

Special Equipment Needed - Filming In A Coal Mine

3. Special light conditions have to be considered

Given that filming is done underground or in the belly of a mountain means that there is never enough light. It is important to carry lots of extra lights. Yet the film has a certain haze to it which we do not see when filming in broad daylight or in a studio with better controlled lighting. However, it is important not to over-compensate for light conditions but rather to ensure that everything is clearly visible while keeping the feel of being in an underground location.

Special Light Conditions Have To Be Considered While Filming In A Coal Mine

4. Special cabling and electricity requirements

One of the hazards in a mine is an explosion caused by faulty electrical connection. All equipment needs to meet certain standards and has to be approved for use in a mine. In our case, experts from our client examined our electrical equipment and put a stamp on each item to certify that it was compliant for use in a mine.

Special Cabling And Electricity Requirements While Filming In A Coal Mine

5. Dust, Noise & Heat

It is very dusty, noisy and suffocating hot in a mine. To some degree we were surprised by how challenging the situation was. We expected it to be dusty and had adequate protection for our equipment. But the noise level was higher than expected because all sounds booms in a closed space like a mine. This made communication between the crew members as well as between us and the client difficult and we had to resort a lot to hand gestures.

Dust, Noise & Heat - Filming In A Coal Mine

And we were totally taken by surprise by the level of heat. It’s true we were underground but this particular mine where we were filming was used for training purposes and it was not so deep in the ground. Yet, with the heavy protective overcoats and the helmets the heat was stifling.

All in all it was a wonderful experience and we look forward to more film projects in such exciting locations.

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