Top Gear Test Drive Hovercam


Hovercam were contacted to work on some new ideas for Top Gear back in January 2009. The production team were keen on trying new ideas to put a different perspective on the cars that are tested for performance around their test track at Dunsfold, Surrey.

Typically the program has featured two-dimensional imagery of super cars, so the idea was to bring a dynamic aerial view to not only the car but the track. After a few discussions with the team over the phone the production team were ready to bring Hovercam to location for testing. So on a grey day in the middle of March the team travelled up to Surrey and met with the busy Top Gear crew and enthusiastic Aussie Film Director Owen Trevor. It was then we learnt that we were going head to head with the new Mercedes SL65 AMG Black. In true Top Gear style this is how Hovercam matched up to the super car.

Specification Mercedes SL65 Black Hovercam

Length 4.6 m 2.0 m
Width 2.0 m 1.8 m
Height 1.3 m 0.7 m
Weight 2,100 kg 10 kg

Engine 6 litre V12 6 kW Gas Turbine
Top Speed 199 mph (limited) 60 mph
0-60mph 3.85 secs 10 secs
Fuel Super Plus Unleaded Jet A1 Fuel
BHP 670 8
Torque 1000 Nm 70 Nm
MPG 14 15

Clearly we were going to have a job to keep up with the Mercedes, but at least running a remote controlled helicopter is kinder to the environment.


Working with Hovercam

Most producers or directors that have not worked with Hovercam before are slightly sceptical and/or apprehensive as to what can be achieved with a remote controlled helicopter with a camera onboard. However, the Top Gear team really seemed excited about the possibilities.

The Hovercam crew always arrive prior to call time to conduct a risk assessment of the area they will be operating in and set-up equipment. After meeting the crew on location and going through the brief and any modifications, a risk assessment will be conducted. In this case, the brief from the director was “Show us what you can do!”

Once a risk assessment is completed the Hovercam crew will conduct a flight safety briefing for all at the location. This is to ensure that safe operating areas are maintained and all are clear on what to do in the event of failure. In essence the Hovercam is a machine in the air and it is possible that it might fail, therefore every precaution possible must be taken in the air and on the ground.

With our attention to detail at each location we have successfully maintained a 100% safety record over the past 20 years.


Ready for action

With a pretty loose brief we quickly decided that the best approach for the day was for both the driver of the Mercedes and Hovercam was to freestyle. Communication was set-up between the Director, Hovercam and the driver which supported safety on the day.

Hovercam come as a self contained filming unit and provide a microwave link to ground so that images that are being captured from the flying camera can be viewed live from our support vehicle via a clam shell monitor. This allows the director to see what is being captured and modify the action as required in the air and ground.

The driver (which may or may not have been Mr. Clarkson – I’m afraid we can’t give anything away!) was briefed to drive without consideration for the flying camera unless instructed otherwise. This meant we could effectively play chicken with a car going at speeds around 100 mph to get a shot.

The whole shoot took around 4 hours and as time went on the director was getting the feel as to what can be done with our machine and subsequently wanted to really push the boundaries. The Hovercam crew ended up using pretty much every shot in their repertoire on the day, which included head to head, swooping and peeking in the window shots to name a few. As you can imagine the Top Gear experience had left the Hovercam crew fully pumped with testosterone and eager to do more. Everybody on the ground seemed really happy with the way the day went and Owen Trevor, the director, made a point of thanking the team. Job done!


The results

It took a while to get some feedback from the BBC because our footage was in post backlog as the first of the new series of Top Gear was looming for the editors. However we got some feedback a couple of weeks later and the production team were really happy with what we had captured.

Some of the shots taken by Hovercam can be seen on BBC iplayer Series 13 episode 3 and is currently being used in some of the trailers for the Series.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00lnd97/Top_Gear_Series_13_Episode_3_(new_series)/


Hovercam Ltd. are industry leading specialists and have a team with over 20 years of experience in aerial filming and photography.

Tags: iss032 | hovercam | top gear | N/A
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