It’s funny how everything goes in cycles. For the first 9 months of this year I had hardly any trails or promos, maybe one every couple of months. Then in September BBC WorldWide asked me to shoot one in Norway for their channel BBC BRIT and since then it’s not stopped! I’ve just completed shooting another 2, one for Discovery and another for UKTV but I think that’s it now till Christmas. So let’s look at 3 that were all very different, starting with the BBC BRIT trail that kicked it all off. This was a big campaign for the Nordic region consisting of the trails, posters, give-aways and social media voting. We were promoting the latest series by the Hoff had made a tongue in cheek reality expose of his day to day life. The campaign took the shape of mimicking a nature programme that highlighted the close extinction of species but with the tag line of ‘there might only be 1000 whales, but there’s only 1 Hoff’. A good percentage of the trail was to be library footage but then we needed to shoot a body double and plates in Norway and then a greenscreen shot of the Hoff in the UK to comp onto the plates. The stills for the campaign were being shot be Kurt Stallaert, who I have to say is a really phenomenal photgrapher, and he was also asked to direct the moving image. Working with Kurt was a genuine honour and  one I’d be happy to repeat any time. In Norway we shot for two days, telling two stories, one based on Whales, the other on Wolves. It’s difficult to go wrong when you are in a location as beautiful as Norway and we certainly made the most of it.

We shot on a RED Dragon with Ultraprimes, mainly at 50fps. On the water we tried to keep either close to the water or high up in the sky with a drone as this helped to keep the mystery as well as disguising our body double. Sometimes drones can be overused but this was not one of those times, the shots were great and the drone was the perfect tool.

Lighting on the greenscreen element was crucial to feeling that the Hoff was on location, not in studio. We were matching a variety of weathers and times of day so each set up was very individual but the basic premise stayed constant – large overhead ambient source which we created with a 20×20 silk with 10k’s bounced into it and then large lamps bounced into poly and softened further with frames. Again it was terrific to be working with Kurt who also has an in-depth knowledge of ‘lighting to match’, it became a real team effort.

Green screen at centrestage
BTS as we record the Hoff pieces to camera on greenscreen

And here is one of the final film ( Whales). I can take no credit for the Whales close ups and under water shots which are all very beautiful library footage.

The next promo was for the Travel Channel and very different. It was to promote a new series by Henry Cole and again was to be shot over 2 days. The slight difficulty was that the trail was meant to happen in a  30 minute period, it was exterior based and we were forecast one day of rain and one day of clear weather. Always a nightmare for a DoP! The series concentrates on Henry and his colleague Sam going to sheds and finding valuable biking gear. The trail was a comedy based piece where an impossibly large amount of stuff comes out of a tiny shed. This was directed by Pauline Russell who I have known for many years and is always a joy to work with so I knew I was in very safe hands. We decided to shoot hand held to give it a natural feel of exploring and observing. The RED Dragon came out again, this time furnished with our trusty Nikkor rehoused cine lenses. To combat the rain/no rain situation we brought our own rain and lit the scene with one large soft source for the exteriors and a little more for when we went into the shed.

Behind the scenes Henry Cole promo
Behind the scenes Henry Cole promo

I’m really fond of the light-hearted nature of this promo and think the rain is a great addition to the atmosphere of the whole piece.

The final promo I’ll talk about today was probably the biggest set-piece for came department. It has some set extention, some greenscreen, plenty of movement, slow motion and a stadium feel. We were trailing the South African franchise of Bake Off and the idea was to make connections between baking and the olypmics, so for example oven gloves become boxing gloves, scales weights become lifting weights etc. With this style in mind we wanted the visuals to feel like a stadium so the whole trail became very back lit and flares were our friend.

We shot on the RED/ultraprime combo which always works well for trails and at framerates up to 200fps. The spot was co-directed by Rosie Davenport from BBC World Wide and the food specialist Will Heap. Co- directors can sometimes mean a whole world of pain for DoP’s as you can get conflicting desires and end up fudging a mix but in this case it worked really well with Rosie and Will building on each others ideas.  The set extension I mentioned was for an opening shot of the baking tent. We erected a marquee in the studio at Malcolm Ryan but it was still not big enough to give the Olympic feel we wanted. In addition Rosie wanted a wall of fridges on one side of the marquee, this is no problem except that they could only get one fridge that matched the Bake off specifications! So we framed up, locked off good and proper and just moved the fridge slowly and gradually up the length of the marquee. This was slightly complicated by the lighting which needed to chase in sequence from the back of the marquee up to the front. To achieve this we rigged a long line of 1K par-cans from trussing and programmed in a chase sequence which we ran each time the fridge was moved. Carlos the fx supervisor did a great job of comping all this together and then extending the marquee further. I like the final trail, it has an epic feel but still keeps its sense of playfulness. Hope you like it also.