Eurotunnel is responsible for operating the 31.4 miles of train track connecting Great Britain with the Continent, which we know as the Channel Tunnel. It opened in 1994 but until now they have never owned any video or photography of the whole site, from the air.
This was a project that opened up many possibilities to create stunning aerial visuals of the site, but how do you turn that in to reality?
With a project like this, the recce is key. Our Producer toured the entire site with the client – a staggering 350 acres – including two check-in facilities for both passenger and freight trains, the passenger terminal building, the operations tower, customs and security, the maintenance yard, the eight platforms for loading and unloading both passenger and freight trains, and of course the tunnel entrances and exits, referred to as ‘The Portal’. From the ground it’s difficult to fully appreciate the vast scale of this transport operation, and with security and wind fences obscuring the view of The Portal, we came to the conclusion that a drone would give us the best solution to film at the low levels needed to showcase the site.
Aerial filming with drones has become increasingly popular in recent years, and has fast established itself as a great way to obtain some breathtaking shots that previously would have been unthinkable, without the huge expense of hiring a helicopter.
Clearly with this project, health and safety was a particularly important consideration, making sure both crew and the drone remained at a safe distance from the trains, tracks and power lines. We also had to identify safe take-off and landing sites at the various locations we were required to film. Under Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidelines, commercial drone pilots are licensed, and our pilot for this shoot holds a full light aircraft license, which meant we could fly within 30 metres of members of the general public, rather than the standard drone qualifications of 50 metres, allowing us to get as close as possible.
Once the recce was complete a filming schedule for the shoot was drawn up, which had to take into consideration the angle of the sun throughout the day, to minimise the chances of getting any drone shadow in our shots.
On a crisp Autumn morning our crew arrived at the site. With all the security checks done, and fuelled by coffee and bacon sandwiches, we prepared for shooting at the first location of the day: shots of the various Eurostar, Freight and Passenger trains entering and exiting The Portal.
Our crew included a Drone Pilot, a Director of Photography to operate the camera on a 360 degree gimbal, our Producer Director and a Camera Assistant. Filming with a 4K camera we shot in S-Log, a raw digital format that captures a broad dynamic range of 14 stops. This provides a digital negative file that gives us the most flexibility in post-production to determine the grade we wish to achieve for our client.
We also went off-site up to the nearby Cheriton Hill, home of the Shepway White Horse, to get a wider perspective of the whole Eurotunnel site. At the end of the day we backed up all the footage across hard drives and travelled back to our offices in Tunbridge Wells, ready to start the post-production process.
With all our rushes loaded into our edit suite, the logging of shots began. The process involves identifying the best take of each scene we filmed. Earlier this year we started colour-grading in DaVinci Resolve, a powerful editing package, which coupled with our Tangent grading equipment allows us to really push our material and make sure we get the best possible look from the footage.
The video shots will be used in various broadcast and online productions, so we chose a classic grade, which is glossy but without a look that’s too ‘baked in’. This allows plenty of scope for future productions to grade the footage to match other shots, so allows for maximum flexibility. Filming in 4K enables us to produce a video library that is future-proofed for at least the next 5 to 10 years.
If you’re contemplating using aerial filming as part of your marketing strategy, get in touch.
We’d love to start a conversation with you.