Miraculously, a sprained ankle was the only injury sustained during five months of filming in Scotland's Nevis mountain range for the BBC's new six-part drama, Rockface.A co-production between BBC Scotland, Union
Miraculously, a sprained ankle was the only injury sustained during five months of filming in Scotland's Nevis mountain range for the BBC's new six-part drama, Rockface.A co-production between BBC Scotland, Union Pictures and Columbia TriStar, the series was inspired by the real-life stories of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team and features several ambitious stunts and rescue sequences.According to Union Pictures executive producer Brad Adams the real challenge for the team was to create a white-knuckle ride that didn't compromise the safety of the cast and crew.'There have been a number of films released in mountainous settings such as Vertical Limits and Cliffhanger so audiences now have certain expectations of the kind of stunts they want to see. The secret is to find a relatively safe location and make it look like the actor's hanging off the edge of a precipice,' he says.Lochaber rescue member and ex-royal marine commando Mick Tighe was on hand to advise the stunt team on the safest locations to shoot - one of the most hair-raising sequences in the first episode was shot relatively close to the ground.The scene shows one of the characters free climbing up a rockface in an attempt to rescue a female climber. When the character loses his balance he falls down the sheer and is pictured hanging upside down from the cliff's edge. While it looks like a 1,000ft drop, the lump of rock the stuntman was hanging from was actually 100ft high. 'For access purposes we couldn't go very high up so Mick found us a smaller piece of rock to use. We attached wire to the rock and to the stuntman along with pulleys to drag stuff up and down and safety mats at the bottom,' explains stunt supervisor Mark Henson.Following a day of rehearsals, shots were taken of the actor climbing up a lower piece of rockface which were later combined with a stunt double negotiating the higher climb. The fact that the scenes below appear to show the character hanging on by a knife's edge is testimony to clever camerawork and CGI.'It's called an infinity shot,' reveals Adams. 'You try and find a piece of rock or rockface which you can shoot from the side and add depth by taking shots from a much higher mountain range using a stills film camera which are later composited together in post-production.'These shots are also combined with general scenes from the surrounding mountain area, and series producer Jacky Stoller ensured as much was made of the location as possible.'In each of these episodes there is something like 1,200 cuts whereas in most TV dramas there are about 600 - we covered a lot of scenery despite appalling weather conditions,' she says.At the Mill's new television post-production arm, Mill TV, David Houghton tracked and composited green-screen shots of the character hanging off a cliff in Inferno and combined it with infinity shots taken from the stills camera. He also erased safety wires and some motion blur that often occurs when shooting in extreme conditions.The nature of the shoot also meant filming the stunt takes on 35mm was not an option. Instead the production sustained a high-quality look by using Sony's new High Definition digital camera, accessed via its Sony-owned production partner, Columbia Tristar. A 35mm film camera lens supplied by Panavision also added to the show's 'filmic' quality.ROCKFACEBroadcaster: BBC 1Producers: Union Pictures, BBC Scotland, Columbia TriStarStart: 13 March, 19.30Length: 6 x 60-minutes Commissioning editor: Jane Tranter PRODUCTION CREDITS Executive producers: Brad Adams, Kevin Loader (Union Pictures), Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Barbara McKissack (BBC Scotland), Dean Hargrove (Columbia TriStar) Producer: Jacky Stoller Director (ep 1&2): Robert Bierman Writers: Nicholas Hicks-Beach, Shelly Miller DOP: Sean Van Hales Camera operator: Dave Roman CGI editor: Dave Houghton Stunt co-ordinator: Mark Henson Safety advisor: Mick Tighe