INTO the Water / Dhan Uisge is a new series on BBC ALBA following YouTube star, Calum Maclean, as he shares his passion for swimming in remote lochs and rivers.
Across ten episodes, Calum reveals some of his favourite – and most remote – places to swim in Scotland.
Calum has a huge social media presence with 1.8 million views for his 60-second ‘midgie challenge’ on Skye – when originally uploaded last year – and his wild swimming tips, ice swims and vlogs regularly attract thousands of views on Facebook and Twitter.
Episode one will be shown on BBC ALBA tomorrow evening – Thursday – at 10.30pm, with subsequent programmes on consecutive Thursday nights, at the same transmission time.
A shortened version of each episode will also be available on BBC Scotland’s The Social on Friday mornings.
Here, series director, Alasdair Maclean, answer the questions…
Who commissioned the series?
Dhan Uisge was commissioned by MG ALBA for broadcast on BBC ALBA. It came from an original idea that the Gaelic Department in BBC Scotland submitted for an one-hour documentary, but MG ALBA came back to us and asked if we could deliver 10x 6minute episodes instead.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
Calum Maclean, the subject of the series has been a dedicated outdoor swimmer for many years.
Recently, he’s been blogging some short films of himself and his swimming adventures – these have proved to be massively popular on the BBC The Social site.
The 10x6minute commission allowed us to try and maintain the short-form feel of Calum’s online films, and we continued this philosophy by having as small a team on location as possible, trying to give the series an authentic, self-authored feel.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
In addition to Calum, the series was directed and shot by myself, and we were lucky enough to be able to arrange to have Nick Roxburgh, BBC Scotland’s safety advisor to come out on location for most of the filming.
Nick is an experienced mountain leader and lifeguard. We’re both staff at the BBC.
What kit and software?
The main camera I used was the Sony XF 305; I’d used these cameras many times and felt the small size and weight was going to be helpful.
We used a GoPro, and crucially, it was the Hero 5 – this model does not require an external waterproof cover, and has three on-board mics. Using this, we not only got lovely underwater shots, but good PTC sound while Calum was swimming.
Additionally, I used a Canon 5d mkii with a 50mm f/1.4 and we had some drone time with an Inspire shooting at 4k.
We knew that we’d be trying out techniques and filming in ways we’d never attempted before and I undertook the task of self-editing the series. This allowed me flexibility to work with the rushes I shot and also develop my skills editing on an Avid newscutter.
What have been the main production challenges?
The biggest challenge for us on Dhan Uisge was that we were filming in the Highlands in late January and February! It was generally cold and at times extremely wet.
On a number of days, ice could be seen on location. We had to be very aware of how much time Calum was spending in the very chilly water – and it was invaluable to have Nick, largely separate from the filming process, to keep an eye on Calum’s wellbeing.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
This was the first time I’d done much filming in the water and I really loved it!