As part of the BBC’s commissioning of IWC Media to produce a documentary on how new pilots are selected for the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows aerobatic team, Impact Image shot HD footage in the demanding 2.5G to 8.5G environment of jet aircraft.
The decision to shoot HD was made early on, according to Bob Hayes, a production director for Impact Image. An Ikegami HDL-20 ultra-compact camera was chosen with a Fujinon 4.8mm HD prime lens to record onto a Sony HDW-S280 HDCAM recorder.
Camera mounts were engineered to fit either in the cockpit looking at the pilot or in a specially modified pod positioned under the aircraft delivering a spectacular rear-facing view of the Red Arrows formation.
Impact Image shot footage on nearly 40 occasions over two weeks. G-forces ranged from 2.5G to 8.5G without introducing problems to the HD equipment.
Set up and operation for each flight itself had to be handled with military precision. Hayes and Steve Case, a technical operator for the BBC, worked with the team's engineers to prepare the camera before each flight. They closed up the panels and started the system just as the pilot was getting into the airplane.
Despite having no time to pre-test the setup, the clarity of the HD footage shot “gobsmacked” documentary producer/director Martin Williams. For example, in an HD wide shot of the pilot turning his head, ripples in the ocean hundreds of feet below are clearly visible.
According to Williams, the work was groundbreaking because the use of HD allowed the crew to position the camera where no film camera would have fit.
The Red Arrows recommended Impact Image for the aerial sequences because they had worked together on previous projects.
For more information, visit www.impactimage.co.uk.