We were contacted late in 2013 by the team at Renegade Productions and briefed about a very ambitious program idea that meant us exploring the possibilities of taking the rig a long way out of its comfort zone. It was for the very innovative factual commissioning team at Channel 4 and the concept was to take the familiar style of the rig into a very remote part of eastern Africa to follow the everyday lives of a tribal family.
We arrived in Ethiopia 3 days ago and it has been a whirlwind ever since…
The Omo valley is possibly one of the hardest places in the world to film at all, let alone having to drag more than 2 metric tonnes of technical equipment over 200 miles of dirt roads before you can even start. Not only do temperatures regularly exceed 35 degrees but we have also had to deal with torrential, almost biblical rain storms. We have a big challenge on our hands!
Just getting the kit out here was incredibly tricky as, due to Ethiopian import tax, we had to bring all the kit as excess baggage on the plane with us, broken down into small 32kg boxes to be re assembled now we are here. There is NO civilisation anywhere near here so absolutely everything has had to come with us; every nut, bolt and enough spares to keep us filming for 4 weeks.
We are planning to use 16 Panasonic AW-HE60 remote cameras to film this typical Hamar homestead, made up of 4 mud huts in a larger fenced off living area with a small goat pen on the side. 10 of the cameras will be inside the huts and 16 outside. The huts are so hot, dirty and very smoky from fires the Hamar burn in them all day with no discernable chimney. So we are having to be very careful when rigging inside, and there isn’t much space to move! We have had special sealed housings with air-conditioning in them shipped from the USA to give the cameras a chance of staying within acceptable operating temperatures when they are rigged outside, and we will begin mounting them over the next 24 hours.
The local labourers have been incredibly helpful ever since we arrived. They are all so friendly and excited to see us! We needed to mount the external cameras at suitable heights, and yesterday they shot off into the bush and came back with some rough wooden poles made of a local hardwood that for my money was tougher than steel! Needless to say with some local knowledge and some willing volunteers, we dug the poles into the ground and they are rock solid.
Now all these cameras and microphones needed a gallery with sound and MCR to control them from. It looks like our best option is going to be some tents that the local fixer has found in Addis Ababa. It is going to take a lot of work to make them serviceable and water tight, I laughed at first, but porta cabins really aren’t an option and we will just have to make do. It turns out there isn’t a B&Q round here!
The local fixers built are going to build us a table for out Director, Producer and Hothead Operators, and I think by the time we are done we will feel right at home… fingers crossed!