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Channel 4 'Spies'

2 teams 2 locations.

After a successful shoot on the SAS show, Minnow films contacted us to provide the aerial footage for their new project 'Spies'

None of us knew what to expect however the shooting was going to be happening in a similar setup to the SAS show with a mixture of on rig & off rig filming.

We had been asked to provide a crew to shoot at 2 locations. Myself & Jon Shepley (Creokintetics) were at location 1 (Fawley) & I asked fellow operators Jack Wrangham (Horizon AP) & Chris Bates (Skyhook) to film in location 2. (Brixton)

The main location was a (not so) top secret facility on the south coast. Fawley power station near Southampton is a decommissioned power station on a huge 160acre site. Safety & security were exceptionally tight on this location as the facility is very treacherous place to move around in. We had been lucky enough to film there on several previous projects so we are known and trusted by the site's remaining staff. The location is incredible & weeks before us the Red Dwarf crew were in shooting their new series in the underground maze of pipe work. It was also used for the scenes in MI5 where Tom Cruise jumps from a crane into the water inlet. Although now full decommissioned the main turbine hall is fully kitted out with original equipment & could easily fit the QE2 ship inside it. Over 250ft tall the hall has multiple levels which makes most parts of the facility accessible.

Each time we have been to the location we have been blessed with great weather and the sunrise was absolutely perfect so the 5am start was well worth it. The X5R camera was used to mop up some great gv's of the sun rising behind the installation. After each flight myself & Jon Shepley constantly adjusted settings & changed ND levels as the morning got brighter and brighter.

The arrival scene was a convoy of 5 blacked out vehicles which brought the contestants onto location for the first time. Using the 25mm lens on the X5R allowed us to track the motorcade from the main entrance through to the control room whilst keeping a good distance for the audio boys not to be waving their boom poles in our direction. Oh, did I mention the national grid have a huge main substation which supplies the Isle of White that is fully operational right next door? Lets just say that makes operating outside just as bad as inside!

With the full clearance from nearby Southampton ATC to operate, we could hoover up the scale of the location & concentrate on the exterior of the control room where most of the action was taking place.

Operating inside there was a lot of visible & hidden danger to deal with. The whole place is a lattice work of metal so the aircraft really does not like flying inside, constant compass errors were thrown & transmission badly multipathed, making the camera operators job even more challenging.

We shot from the main levels using the Inspire 1 its smaller size allowed us to get some great flythroughs of pipework & equipment inside the building.

During the day we had an unexpected aerial visitor in the form of a small Phantom drone which was being flown from the other side of the bay (about 2miles) obviously by an uneducated keen holidaymaker. They circled the entire location & rose over the chimney stack which is over 600ft & directly in Southampton's approach path. It's these kinds of users that make the professional operators job so much more difficult as their selfish urge to think they can do what they want often gains the attention of the authorities. To be honest with the amount of IRI (Intense radio interference) generated at the site they were lucky to get their craft back safely at all.

Location 2. Brixton

As our day at location 1 was drawing to a close, the contestants were taken over to London where the second crew were waiting. They were ontop of a leisure centre with the Freefly Alta 6 & Movi M5 under some extremly tight operational limits even with their OSC for inner city work & months of planning.

Jack & Chris were an eye in the sky to track contestants along the narrow streets around Brixton. Using the Panasonic GH4 with an 85mm lens they were able to use their high vantage point in some pretty windy conditions to capture the surveillance feel the producers wanted.

Chris used his exceptional gimbal skills to pick out specific people relevant to the story & track them accurately much to the director's happy faces.

Another successful shoot in the bag that pooled resources from the most experienced operators in the Drone Operator Group to keep standards high for shows such as this.

Watch the series starting Jan 5th on Channel 4.

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