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Dynasties coming to BBC 1 this Autumn

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Im really pleased to let you know that a series i spent much of the last 3 years working on is going to be aired this Autumn on BBC1. Its really exciting for me personally as was in many ways one of the most amazing yet challenging projects to be involved with in my Career. I DOP’d the Chimpanzees film with John Brown and filmed on the Lion film alongside Sophie Darlington and John Aitchison.

It is a five part series about the lives of these amazing animals above.

Ill keep you posted about the release date !

Komodo: The Land of the Dinosaurs

I’ve been involved for the last year and a half in a fantastic new landmark series for the BBC called 'Planet Earth 2". It follows on from the original Planet Earth series which first aired around 10 years ago. It’s taken me to Madagascar several times, India, Costa Rica and Komodo.

It’s the second time I’ve filmed the Dragons of Komodo Island and it’s a place that’s very special to me. As a child I like many others used to love reading about dinosaurs, I remember the first trip my parents took me on to the Natural History Museum in London and walking into the main hall to see the enormous diplodocus on display there and still think about it today and how it fired my imagination. I remember Reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and dreaming about one day experiencing such an adventure myself and for me Komodo is such a place.

Padar Island with Komodo in the Background.

Padar Island with Komodo in the Background.

In order to prepare myself for the trip, I thought a little background reading about the potential hazards a Komodo dragon poses to a human might be useful and get the excitement levels up. I read various articles on the web, which made my eyes wider as I did more research. Just a few of the recent victims of Komodo dragon attacks included: an 8-year old boy; a group of stranded divers; a celebrity's husband.

With this in mind, myself ( DOP ), Emma Brennand ( Researcher) and Louis Labrom ( Camera Assistant and Tech Wizard) set off for our trip at the end of July: our Mission - to film the Komodo Dragons fighting. It was coming to the end of the mating season the reports were good that the behaviour was still happening but we knew to film the spectacular fight we hoped for, we would need all the luck we could get. It took us 4 days, 4 flights, cars and a boat that was to be our home for the next 3 weeks just to get us to the island.  But the journey is so worth it the moment you catch your first sight.

When you approach the island on Boat it delivers all of those images I'd imagined, the prehistoric looking huge rocky mountains, strong ocean currents, whirl pools and you just know you are going to see something amazing.

Past Dragon victims on Rinca Island   

Past Dragon victims on Rinca Island

 

Our challenge would be to find two male dragons that were going to battle over a female. We had expected it to difficult as filming most animal behaviour is, but not as hard a challenge as it proved to be. The problem with Komodo in the breeding season is that the dragons disperse all over the island in pursuit of females and are much harder to find. But we had an amazing team with us of local Rangers and Achmad Ariefiandy a scientist who had been studying the dragon on Komodo and Rinca Island, without whom none of it would have been possible.

At first sight the Komodo dragon is an intimidating animal, it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 meters (10 ft) and weighing up to approximately 90 kilograms. The skin is like armour, teeth like a shark and pure muscle.


It didn’t take long to get our first glance of a dragon walking along the beach and reminded me of the moment in the Jurassic park film when the glass of water ripples when the Tyrannosaurus rex approaches. You feel every foot step, the power of the dragon runs right through you, especially when you film them and have such close spine tingling experiences. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when one stops close and sizes you up.  It’s putting adrenaline through me now as I think about them and write this. All of us took a sobering breath, smiled in excitement, and started to plan our strategy for the next few weeks filming.

Like many top predators there is a lot of down time, dragons, like lions and many others sleep a large part of the day, but when they decide to do something it looks great. I filmed as much of this sequence as possible on the Freefly MoVI M15, It is a stabilizing gimbal that I own several of and have been using for several years, that to my mind has no equal. I have teamed it with a Teradek Bolt Pro 2000 HD wireless system that is amazing, it gives astounding range and great picture quality coupled with the Small HD High Bright Monitor and i use it alongside the RT Motion Follow focus, the Follow focus has been fantastic and works brilliantly with the MoVI as the receiver is so small it adds no weight to the system and the whole Follow Focus is made beautifully and gives my focus puller the best chance to do his job.

Sometimes you have to step away !!!  MoVi M15 with Red Dragon, Teradek bolt pro 2000 and Rt Motion follow focus.

Sometimes you have to step away !!!  MoVi M15 with Red Dragon, Teradek bolt pro 2000 and Rt Motion follow focus.

The ability to get the range of shots it enables me to get has revolutionised wildlife filming recently, and from a style point of view suddenly allows the animal to take us on a journey, following its movements and life in an immersive and less strictly long lens observational way. It's added so much to wildlife filming styles and suddenly brings much more of a drama feel to wildlife. For the long lens work I used the relatively new canon 50-1000, its a monster of a lens and a beast to carry but the image it produces is stunning and there really is no equal at that focal length for this sort of work.

It was an amazing place, wonderful team and incredible subject to work with and did not disappoint, and to see how it turned out look out watch BBC Planet Earth 2. and for a behind the scenes video: 

Myself on the Left, Emma Brennand and Louis Labrom

Myself on the Left, Emma Brennand and Louis Labrom



Home Bound

Wood Carving river

Its been an amazing two and a half months filming from India, through New Zealand down to the Sub Antarctic Islands on its southern tip, and now I'm sat in an airport on my home to the family, cant wait, its been a long time. I just need to remember how to be a dad and husband again.

Ive filmed Macaques, Langurs, Holi festival, Albatross, Tuatara (reptile, bit like a lizard), Giant Weta, Maori Wood carving, a sheep muster on some of the steepest mountains I've seen for a while, and finally Sooty shearwaters, its been a blast. We used every mode of transport i can reasonable think of other than a train, but cars, helicopters, planes of almost every size.

Sheep Muster

 

Sheep Mustering as it turns out down here, happens just before winter sets in, the farm we filmed at has some of the most amazing scenery I've been in and Kate and her shepherds get dropped by helicopter to the top of one of the more impressive mountain ranges and over two days navigate their way through this landscape trying to bring down 7000 sheep from the steep summer grazing. All while wearing shorts !!!!! It was too cold for me to think about doing that.

Albatross

But the final part of the shoot was spent on a small boat in a large stormy ocean, trying to find the elusive Sooty shearwater before this amazing little bird starts it migration from the sub antarctic tip of New Zealand all the way to the California coast, a journey that means it covers roughly 47,000miles a year. The chicks spend all of there time in the nesting burrow until their parents leave without them and then embark on this amazing journey.  We only had a few days to film them and spent the first day clinging onto the boat in incredibly rough seas, but Ive never seen the number of Albatross we had like that before, well over a hundred, Buller Albatross, White Cap and the occasional Southern Royal and all within touching distance.

Incredible India

This was my first time in India and it did not disappoint, Ive been all over the world filming and the sights, sounds and smells of india are going to stay with me for a long time.  Its probably the most colourful and sense assaulting place ive experienced, and ive got to say I loved it.  I got slightly overexcited about eating curry for a month as well, so much so that i made it every day at home the week before we left, (my poor family), I hadn't quite thought it through, i was to be eating curry 3 meals a day for the next month. Turns out you definitely can have too much of a good thing !!!

My new favourite monkey, The Langur

I was here for a BBC landmark series currently called ‘One Planet’, and we wanted to film two sequences on Urban Monkeys across india, Macaques and Langurs, and experience Holi festival.  This filming took us from rooftops to ground level, suing long lens, MoVi and Cable Dolly, trying to follow our characters from Jaipur to Jodhpur. there is nothing like seeing your gear on a long rope suspended above a city to concentrate the mind.

Cable dolly

Holi came at the end of the shoot, which in many ways was lucky as having now experienced it, it definitely posed the greatest risk to the equipiment, I was falsely under the impression that Holi was all about paint powder, but it appears water has just as much of a part to play and its one of the main things that cameras and MoVI’s don’t like so myself and Louis Labroom came up with our slightly heath robinson Paint and waterproofing. Also we hadn't thought about the fact that the local children had also been planning for a long time their own plans for Holi, mainly focussing on water balloons filled with paint solution, fiendish !!! But we bobbed and weaved, duck and dived and took the occasional hit for the team and the kit survived, although has looked better.

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We were lucky that we had the chance to have 2 attempts at filming Holi in different locations and after the first run we quickly revised our paint proofing as within the first 10mins its inadequacies were shown up. So it was back to the drawing board, to prepare for the next onslaught which would be far less tame. Resulting in a full on street party, paint everywhere and was a complete blast !!!!! And is one of the few time I've been expected to dance while operating the MoVI :-)