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Case Study: Outfitting Vice Media’s HBO Series for High Performance in Extreme Conditions


Vice Media, the media arm of Vice magazine, was beginning production of the debut season of their ground-breaking HBO news magazine series, VICE, which would take the crew to extreme locations all around the globe.

Vice had limited time, a modest budget, and a wide variety of unique requirements. They wanted elements of the series to be cinematic, but overall, verite in nature. The camera and lens profile needed to be small and unobtrusive for clandestine operation. They would need to utilize a combination of small sensor handheld cameras, large sensor cameras and specialty gear. They needed to shoot in natural light in a wide variety of uncontrolled situations, including complete darkness, so night vision optics were also a requirement. Furthermore, whatever camera system they chose would have to meet the high image quality standards set by HBO.

Since the crew would traveling constantly, and to remote locations, the production packages needed to be small and compact.


After reviewing the project’s technical requirements with Dan Meyer, Vice Media’s Equipment Manager, AbelCine recommended the Canon camera platform because it would allow the crew to stay with one media type, one battery type and one codec, even though they would be mixing camera types and sensor sizes. This also allowed the production to take advantage of their existing inventory of Canon optics.

After an evaluation phase, where AbelCine helped the team gain access to soon-to-be-released models for testing purposes, the production selected a combination of Canon XF305s, XF105s, C300s and 5Ds. AbelCine then worked closely with production to accessorize and configure each system to the lightest weight, most hand-holdable form possible, including developing a custom handgrip for the C300, all while taking into consideration the need for the system to fit in airline carry-on Storm cases.

Our specialists then worked to match the looks of all camera platforms and trained the crew on operation before they left for their first location.

After nine months of harsh environments and relentless travel, VICE has reported no down time, and is pleased with their visual results, as well as their workflow.


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