Cold cuts: Giacomo Frittelli on filming a unique Arctic ad campaign

A pack of grey and white thick-furred Greenland dogs run in unison, harnesses strapped to them to pull a sleigh that is off-camera.
Dogs were used to pull a sleigh across Disko island in Greenland, loaded with the materials that Ariston's crew would need to build and kit out the house. Photographed on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. © Paolo Verzone

Which is more challenging: building a comfortably heated house on a remote Arctic island, or making a film documenting the whole project? Director of Photography Giacomo Frittelli battled the elements to create a compelling documentary and a series of web episodes, with a stylish cinematic vision. Planning for all eventualities and adapting to challenging shooting conditions helped to make the project a resounding success, as Giacomo explains.

When Giacomo was invited to join Director Tobia Passigato and the crew of Indiana Production for a film project that would be "challenging" and unlike anything he'd done before, his curiosity was piqued. An experienced cinematographer always on the lookout for assignments that promise adventure, Giacomo jumped at the chance to make a film in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth – Disko Island, off the west coast of Greenland.

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The assignment was for Ariston Thermo Group, an Italy-based manufacturer of heating and water heating solutions, launching a worldwide advertising campaign around the Ariston Comfort Challenge. The campaign was created by J. Walter Thompson Italy and produced by Indiana Production. During the challenge, a team of technicians would build and heat a house with an Ariston Alteas One condensing boiler in a remote part of Disko Island, above the Arctic Circle. The house was for researchers from the University of Copenhagen to live in, so the technicians' aim was to bring comfort and warmth to help the scientists carry out their field work in one of the harshest places on Earth.

Giacomo and the film crew's job was to create a compelling documentary about this unique endeavour, in six web episodes to be embedded in the Ariston Comfort Challenge website. Meanwhile, photographer Paolo Verzone took dramatic stills for the ad campaign.

"It was the first time I'd worked for a long period in such a remote place," says Giacomo. "We were away for a month – from the beginning of April to early May. It was an interesting project because of the remote location, and a challenging situation, of course."

Battling the elements

The main challenges came as a result of the weather, which could be unpredictable. As temperatures fell to -30°C, the extreme cold made filming for long periods at a time an endurance test. "Our big fear was the cold, but we were very well prepared," says Giacomo. "I worked with my First Assistant Camera [focus puller] to make sure we had the right clothes, and if we kept moving we could keep warm."

They kept the camera batteries warm by covering them with specially made pouches fashioned from neoprene. “The covers really were very good,” says Giacomo, who explains that they also had a box for the camera and batteries that could be used to keep the equipment warm while out shooting. Battery life was good, he adds – more than powerful enough for what they needed. On one occasion, the crew shot during a snowstorm, says Giacomo, but covering the camera with a waterproof cover meant it was adequately protected.

A hilly snow-covered landscape is barely visible through a flurry of snow as three figures in red hooded parkas push a wooden crate on a sled through the snow while they are filmed by two black-coated figures at the right of the picture, one holding a large directional microphone. The crate on the sled has the words "The Ariston Comfort Challenge" on both visible sides.
Ariston’s engineers had to conquer hostile conditions to create a comfortably warmed cabin in the Arctic – and Giacomo Frittelli and his team faced the same to film it. Photographed on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Paolo Verzone

Working in remote regions meant the crew wouldn't be able to nip off to pick up extra gear, so Giacomo spent weeks preparing for the trip, making sure he had all the equipment he might need. As well two Canon EOS C300 Mark II camera bodies, he took a range of lenses including a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, perfect for intricate close-ups, and three zoom lenses – a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. Giacomo used Canon lenses exclusively because of their impressive flexibility and the variety of types – with stills lenses, video and cine lenses all using the same mount.

"My key word was flexibility," explains Giacomo. "Flexibility starts from the technical side of things, but in a way that doesn't disturb your vision. You have to understand the best way of achieving a particular result and then know what you can do to reach that (or get as close to that as possible) in the situation in which you find yourself. I chose Canon zoom lenses, for example, to be able to reach [shots] very fast. I wanted to have the best equipment to get the best results."

Two black-coated camera operators stand at the left of shot filming a sled pulled by eight huskies across a snowy landscape. One figure in a red parka is standing at the back of the sled, on which are another figure in a black coat and two crates. The larger of these, at the bottom, has "The Ariston Comfort Challenge" on its sides.
Materials had to be transported by sleigh, with Giacomo’s crew filming in the most remote locations. Photographed on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. © Paolo Verzone

Crafting a story

During the shoot, the crew followed three intrepid boiler installers and a team of scientists as they assembled the house from scratch. The scenes included fast-moving sleighs full of building materials and an icebreaker ship as it ploughed through the frozen sea. Most impressive of all was the breathtaking scenery that stretched as far as the eye could see.

"It was a very beautiful environment," says Giacomo. "I wanted to give a realistic view, [but also to] bring a cinematic style in terms of the photography and colours, and to convey these epic scenes." To achieve his vision, Giacomo also had two cinema zoom lenses (EF mount versions): a Canon wide-angle CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L S and telephoto CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L S. Both are light in weight and ideal for handheld shooting.

An Ariston installer wears a red puffer jacket with a fur-effect hood, and stands in front of a snowy landscape.
The Ariston technicians, and Giacomo and the production crew, worked in beautiful but harsh conditions throughout the Ariston Comfort Challenge. Photographed on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens. © Paolo Verzone

"I mostly used the Canon wide-angle CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L S, which is very sharp," says Giacomo. "For people, medium shots and action, it is the best lens to use. We tried to stay inside the scenes and close to the subjects," he adds. "Sometimes I used two cameras and I'd switch between them."

The Canon EOS C300 Mark II was great for following a subject because of its compact size, portability and quality of output, Giacomo says, adding that he sometimes used this body with the lightweight CN-E14mm T3.1 L F, an EF Cine prime lens, if he wanted an even wider angle.

When he needed to travel light – when filming a subject out in remote places, for example – "I had to bring with me the smallest camera possible," says Giacomo, "and the Canon EOS C300 Mark II gave the maximum possibility." The camera's viewfinder screen came in handy when it wasn't possible to use a video monitor because of limited space – when shooting from a small plane, for example.

The Ariston Comfort Challenge crew stand facing the camera, clustered around a wooden crate on which are visible the words "The Ariston Comfort Challenge". All are wearing padded coats, beanies and cold-weather gear. Snow covers the ground, while various buildings and large containers are visible behind them.
Giacomo (front left, with camera) and the crew of the Ariston Comfort Challenge. The three boiler installers are the ones wearing red coats. Photographed on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Paolo Verzone

The endless possibilities of light

One of the main considerations was how to work with the light at any given time, says Giacomo. Because the shoot took place in late spring, the days were shorter than at the height of summer, and it was important to have a good understanding of the way the light changed throughout the day.

"I studied the angle of the sun, when it would rise and set, and from where," he says. "You have a lot of time and colours to play with, and the golden hour is longer than in other places. The light became our timeline in terms of planning." Giacomo also made use of Canon Log 2 mode, which resulted in footage with increased dynamic range, less noise and better grading flexibility, meaning he could achieve the high-quality vision he wanted.

Despite careful preparation, there were inevitably times when Giacomo had to think on his feet and adapt to scenarios as they unfolded, but it was about finding the best configuration for every situation, he says. "Sometimes things changed very quickly, but at other times we could shoot what we wanted in the right place at the right moment," he says. "We became like a family, living together for a month in the same house. It's been one of the best experiences of my professional life in terms of the challenges, relationships, and outcome."

Discover the whole mission and watch the six episodes at

Írta: Gemma Padley

Giacomo Frittelli's kitbag

The key kit pros use to shoot their films

Cinematographer Giacomo Frittelli, wearing a dark hooded parka, holds a video camera in the snow.

Video camera

Canon EOS C300 Mark II

Durable, powerful and easy-to-use, the EOS C300 Mark II captures 4K/Full HD video with an incredible 15 stops of Dynamic Range, external RAW output and Canon Log2 to help realise your creative vision.


Canon CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L S

The CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L S/SP is a light weight Super 35mm cinematography lens for 2K, and 4K production formats. Available in EF mount (S model) and PL mount (SP model).

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

A workhorse telephoto zoom lens with a durable design, a four-stop Image Stabiliser that makes it ideal for shooting handheld in low-light conditions, and ultra-low dispersion lens elements to ensure high contrast and natural colours.


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

A prime lens of the highest quality, with Image Stabilisation, macro capability up to life-size (1.0x) and the ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh.

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