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On The Crest Of A Wave: Varicam

On The Crest Of A Wave: Varicam

Big Wave Productions produces high-end science, wildlife and adventure programming for the UK and international markets, with broadcast clients including the BBC, Channel 4, Nat Geo and Discovery. When the company came to make ‘The Manta Queen’, a doc following biologist Andrea Marshall's discovery of a new species of manta ray, it had specific camera requirements to deal with the aquatic setting, with VMI supplying a Varicam for the production.

"We had conducted plenty of camera tests before production," explains Producer, Mark Woodward, "and had used the Varicam before on another doc, ‘Turtle Song’, where they had performed very well, so we knew they'd be good. We had also done lots of tests upscaling the footage from that series to cinema size, so we knew the footage held up really well.

"The main challenge with filming at the sea surface was the amount of movement generated at the surface – put simply, watching it would make you feel a little queasy," says Woodward. "However, because the Varicam has a variable framerate, we were able to adapt it to the setting. When filming the surface of the water, we bumped the framerate up to fifty or even sixty frames per second. This really took the edge off the amount of movement in front of the camera lens, and was also great for capturing the very fast and fleeting moments when mantas come out of the water – we would slow it down and get really good-quality footage. Then for interviews on the boat and other footage, we'd film at at the standard 25 frames per second.

"We found the Varicams to be brilliant, even though we knew they'd be good,” he concludes. “Filming at sea can be tricky, but, with just some basic, common-sense care from the cameraman, the Varicam performed really well and proved to be robust too."

Kate Large

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