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Category/ Case Studies

Sub Mission: Working under the radar

Tuesday 08th November 2011
Camera crew and marines on a dock

Features in TVBEUROPE, October 2011

Royal Submarine Navy Mission followed life on board the Hunter Killer submarine, HMS Turbulent, as it travelled from the UK, via the conflict in Libya and the Suez Canal, to take up its role as the UK’s only platform for Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles in the troubled waters of the Middle East, as its crew spent 10 months away from their families, isolated underwater in a vessel bristling with hardware but seriously short of space.

“The production set-up has been extensive and complex and has taken almost three years from our earliest discussions, first meetings through to completion and delivery,” explains Executive Producer Rosie Kingham.

Procam supplied the cameras and originally wanted to use mid-sized camcorders, to get higher-quality pictures, especially in low light, but the confined space meant that wasn’t practical. “We had to shoot with the EX3 due to National Geographic’s requirement to deliver in 100Mb — with the nanoFlash it is the only relatively small camera that can achieve this quality and that the directors could physically carry, film and move around the submarine,” explains Kingham. One EX3 was used as a locked off camera, the other two by the onboard directors/cameramen.

Cameraman Daniel Lemon joined the production for the final four weeks. “I spent the majority of my time onboard with the EX3 on me. And for the most part they fared pretty well. Small and light enough to manoeuvre around the submarine and great considering the cramped shooting conditions. However, they were occasionally struck down by the boat’s magnetic field causing them to misbehave,” he says. “On the whole, I’m pretty impressed with the way the EX3, nano and the radio mics held up.”

“Apart from hostile atmospheric conditions, the Sony EX3 cameras were confronted with a highly unusual challenge,” says Director Geoff Small. “There were occasions when filming outside the submarine resulted in the images turning green.”

“Where there is heavy duty radar activity, it can result in images turning green, but one cost-effective way of solving this was to wrap the camera and drive in tin foil,” explains Brennan.

“The only other issue I can recall facing was the change in temperature and humidity when going from down below to up top,” adds Lemon. The workflow proved simple and reliable, using USB 3.0 card readers into a Sony Vaio laptop and USB 3.0 hard drives. It also used an MC1P minicam in an underwater housing for diving shots (down to 60m) and two MC50s for timelapse effects, plus two GoPros for underwater shots. The three part series of one-hour programmes, produced by Firelight Productions, was shown on Channel 5 in the UK in September and will be shown on National Geographic in 2012.

Find out more on the Channel 5 website.

Leica, Blackmagicdesign, Sony, ARRI, Canon, ZEISS, TLS, Panasonic

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