When it comes to reality TV, it’s hard to think of any show that’s more gnarly and hardcore than “Ice Road Truckers,” with its monster rigs barreling down dangerous highways in sub-zero conditions. Now in its third season on The History Channel, the show is being shot in Alaska this year, and it is an endurance test for the film crew as well as the truckers. DP Brandon Haberman talks about the production’s risks and challenges.
Had you shot a lot of reality shows before this?
I’ve worked on 15 reality shows, mainly for Mark Burnett Productions. I shot three “Survivors,” three “Contenders,” and I’m still also shooting “Celebrity Apprentice,” so I’m very comfortable with the format. I shot season two, and now I’m back for season three.
How many DPs are there?
I’m the lead DP and we have four other shooters. I direct them and [Producer] Adam Martin and I work together to map out the shots we need, and then we’ll tell the shooters and field producers what’s required.
What cameras do you use?
We shoot with five Sony PDW-F350 XDs with wide and long lenses, a gyro-stabilized Cineflex HD aerial camera system, a Sony F900, eight Sony Z7Us with wide lenses, eight Sony Z1U with wide lenses and fisheyes, fourteen Sony A1Us with wide angles, four Sony HC7/HC9s, seven Canon HV30s and five HD POV lipstick cameras. The conditions are extremely harsh on gear, but the XDs just keep going –– even in minus-60 degrees. Last year I used it in minus-100 degrees outside, and it still worked! Nothing ever happens, which is totally amazing! Even the batteries work in these conditions. The main shooters use the XDs, and the field producers shoot on the Sony Z7Us and Sony Z1Us, as they’re mainly shooting inside the cabs ─ which are surprisingly small inside ─ so they need a little more room to maneuver. We also use Sony A1Us mounted on every possible angle in the truck cabs and on the outside, so we can get maximum coverage. The A1Us get to places I can’t and [they] can stay there longer than I can, so even though they’re small cameras, they’re extremely important to this show. Every little HD camera on this show plays its part, and this is an immense show in terms of gear. We lose cameras all the time. They get run over, they fall off trucks, the wide angles break away from the mounts, and once you hit a certain temperature, everything becomes like ice and stuff just shatters.
How does this show compare with “Survivor”?
No show that I’ve ever been on comes close to this show. For this you have to be on your toes the whole time –– and it’s no joke. You’re shooting right next to the road with these huge trucks going by at 50 mph and gravel’s flying everywhere. If you slip on the ice you can crack your head open. If you slip on the road and a truck’s coming right at you, you’re gone. This show puts a lot of emphasis on safety, but sometimes it just gets really hairy out there. By comparison, shooting “Survivor” is pretty easy.