Constructed reality shows are all the rage on some of the UK's most prominent digital channels, following the success of ITV3's The Only Way Is Essex. Now its series producer Sarah Dillistone has come up with a new show focusing on the opposite end of the social scale. Made in Chelsea is an eight parter for E4 which profiles the lives and loves of an elite international set of socialites, Russian oligarchs, young heirs and wealthy playboys who comprise the Chelsea set.
"They're real life characters that I thought only existed in the movies. Get ready for furs, fast cars and scandalous gossip," says Dillistone, executive producer on the series. Her ambition was to come up with a look which would be like no other reality series, an ambition which saw Dillistone take a close interest in the choice of camera. "Ideally I was looking for something slightly smaller than the PDW-700 which we used on Essex - a camera that allows us to run around a bit more and be more reactive to events, but which was capable of producing a filmic shallow depth of field", she explains.
Advised by hire company Procam Television producer Monkey considered a range of cameras - until the new PMW-F3 became an option. Procam Television MD John Brennan recalls: "it soon became apparent that the F3 outshone the competitors in achieving stunning images with great colours and subtle shallow depth of field. A major attraction is it can use standardised PL mount film lenses," Brennan adds: "Unlike some of the competition there were no signs of 'noise' and no aliasing and no visible chromatic aberration. The images produced were simply stunning. For television production this Chelsea set take advantage of the filmic depth of field of the new PMW-F3. bring a ground-breaking dramatic look to the upmarket series camera provides a cost effective solution for those wanting to achieve images on a par with high-end drama and film."
"The shoot was all very smooth sailing," recalls Dillistone, who ran five camera teams on the series using a file-based workflow shooting on to external recording media. Director of photography Nick Martin adds: "The workflow with the recorder was brilliant. We just pulled out the cards and handed them across to the editor. Another benefit of the F3 was that it was versatile and portable enough to be used in a variety of locations - from polo fields to Chelsea's cramped and poorly lit nightspots. "Making a show which involves following our contributors live wherever they are going, a camera with a body the size of the F3 certainly makes the job easier," declares Dillistone. Brennan adds: "Ergonomically the F3 is far better than any DSLR camera straight out of the box. Similar in shape to the EX3 it has a familiar feel"
Martin reveals that the biggest challenge was operating a camera with a 35mm sensor capable of filmic depth of field in a constructed reality setting. "We tried hard to make it not feel like a reality show by having the F3s mounted on tripods and steadicam but although we tried to fix the positions of the cameras as much as possible, the one thing we couldn't control were the movements of our contributors - which made it more difficult to get the most out of the shallow depth of field. We had enough cameras to give us a choice of shots if one didn't work out but without a budget for focus pullers, our cameramen had to do it themselves." Dillistone concludes that despite the challenges she is amazed by the results. "Even in low light our footage still looks like glossy high end drama - we managed to shoot material that looks like nothing I've ever seen before on a show like this."
Find out more about the show on the E4 website.