BRAND new for 2019 is a return of the hit series, Scotland from the Sky, where presenter, Jamie Crawford explores the country from above, using stunningly-beautiful aerial images to uncover fascinating stories from Scotland’s past.
In the first of three films, Jamie focusses on Scotland’s 10,000 miles of coastline. He combines old aerial photographs with present-day drone and helicopter footage to uncover an array of amazing tales, from Shetland to Stranraer.
The first film is being screened on Wednesday, 17 April, on BBC One Scotland, starting at 2100.
Here, one of the producer/directors on the series, Andy Twaddle, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the documentary?
The second series of Scotland from the Sky (three x onehour) was commissioned by David Harron for BBC Scotland.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s look and feel?
From the outset, the films were to be rich, to have an epic, cinematic quality, following up on the success of series one. But unlike series one, which was filmed in the summer, we needed to film this in the autumn – both a potential problem because of the weather but also a bonus because it meant we could hope for it to have a different and even more dramatic look, with snow on the hills.
We wanted the viewer to rejoice in new perspectives on the Scottish landscape, but also to be fascinated by what aerial photography can reveal. The series had to be much more than pretty pictures. The pictures had to point towards fascinating traces from our past.
We needed every component – modern aerials, graphics, archive material – to come together to tell some amazing stories.
Who are the key personnel and how were they recruited?
Writer and presenter, Jamie Crawford, returned after his debut success. His ‘day job’ is writing for Historic Environments Scotland, frequently working with archive photographs. He knows the subject matter inside-out and has taken to film-making like a duck to the proverbial.
Executive producer, Rachel Bell, and myself – as producer/director – both both worked on the first series and were keen to develop the concept even further. Iproduced and directed two of the three episodes of the new run. Fellow BBC staffer, Andrew Thompson, produced and directed the other. Jon Morrice edit-produced one episode.
The films needed an awful lot of organising. Production management came from Helen Straine and Donagh Campbell at BBC Studios in Aberdeen, assisted by Yvonne Innes in Glasgow.
The main crew of DOP Alastair McCormick, drone camera Peter Keith, and sound recordist Jamie Flynn, returned from the first series. As did aerial camera operator, Peter Jones, joined this time round by veteran David Baillie. We flew in PDG aircraft out of Cumbernauld and Inverness. Senior pilot David Blane was joined by Dave Evans and Clark Priestley.
Editors were Aberdeen-based Jonny Craigmile, and Stewart Barlow and Tim Young in Glasgow. Aside from one cut in Aberdeen, all post-production happened at Serious in Glasgow with online editor David Leishman, colourist Ben Mullen, sound dubbing by Nick Davis, and graphics by Jason Hillier and his team.
Working with me was debut researcher, Craig Smaaskjaer. Bertie Allison joined forces with Andrew Thompson.
What kit and software?
Mr McCormick shot his land-based material on C300 M2s, with Zeiss primes.
Mr Keith shot anti-gravity material with his DJI Inspire 2 and X5s camera system.
Helicopter filming was on PDG’s own Shotover F1 system with a Red Epic camera.
Editing on Avid.
What were the main production challenges?
With a quicker turnaround than the first series, each episode presented unique difficulties and pressures.
Crews and presenter climbed up huge trees and down vertiginous cliffs. Dozens of access boats were hired. Two separate stories were told on riverside mudflats (the glamour!).
Helicopters flew over a wintry Torridon, landed on shale bings in West Lothian and tracked a vintage Tiger Moth along a Roman Road. We filmed from Stranraer to Fingal’s Cave to Wick to Shetland.
Only a tiny percentage of the series was shot indoors. Flight and filming plans changed continually with Scotland’s autumn weather.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
There were some truly wonderful moments. Very few people get to descend the Cliffs of the Holy women on the island of Canna. Fewer still fall in the ancient well. Not saying who did.
Ravenscraig was a whole different sort of amazing. We’d all grown up to news coverage of that iconic blue tower and the thousands of jobs it sustained. To bring the helicopter down in the weed-strewn concrete circle that was once its base, that was a surprisingly poignant moment.