On this week's episode of The Playlist podcast, Nick and Dan spoke with Adam Kay from Mint Pictures who is responsible for producing SBS' slow television experiences - The Ghan, The Indian Pacific, and The Kimberley Cruise.
If you've ever been interested in learning how these large-scale TV experiences are produced, it is a must-listen interview that explains just how difficult it is to capture these events on screen.
This is what we learnt from talking with Adam Kay:
Making Slow TV is hard.
"It looks pretty simple when you’re at home watching it. But most productions look quite simple if you’re at home watching it. You don’t really understand the complexities.
"Filming on the train, I had to go on the Indian Pacific three times before we actually locked off our plan and got all of our camera positions approved by the company that run it. You have to find the right technology. The train travels at 120km an hour through difficult terrain.
"Can your cameras be outside the train at 120km an hour? Could they take the impact of a camel*? What about the weather? The rain? What happens if a camera goes down - do we have a backup? How do we change the batteries? How do we change the cards while the train is moving? Inside the train, where do we put the cameras and not impact on the passenger experience? There’s a whole range of complexities and planning."
*Adam Kay later advised that nothing happened to any of the camels or any wildlife on any of the filmed trips.
Just what is slow TV
"For me, Slow TV is a couple of things - it is an experience where you can think for yourself. Most of what you see on television has someone telling you what to think. Slow TV does not manipulate you. The pictures are amazing. They’re natural landscapes - there is no addition. We don’t enhance with any music or voiceover.
"Shots on other shows change every few seconds. I purposefully made a conscious decision that every shot should be at least 30 seconds. In the Indian Pacific, in the long version, there is a shot there for six and a half minutes. There is a train shot from a helicopter that goes for six and a half minutes. I couldn’t play that shot in the short version, but that to me is another tick for slow TV. The shots are slow. The shots are immersive. You can really take your time with it and appreciate it."
You can’t use a drone to film a train
"There are helicopters used for the Indian Pacific. Drones were used for the Kimberley Cruise. The train goes at 120km an hour. The drones can’t go that fast. And the drones, unless you use a huge drone, can only take one lens on them, so you’re stuck with one focal point.
"You’re quite limited with a drone. But, when we did the cruise ship, a drone was the only way to go because we were in the Kimberley, it was very remote, and we were out there for ten days. Our finances couldn’t cope with ten days of helicopter filming, but they could deal with ten days of drone filming. And the cruise ship goes at 20km an hour. The decision was quite easy.
In the Kimberley, there were a number of little channels and mangroves the main ship couldn’t go down, so we got onto a smaller vessel. That was perfect for the drones. Plus a helicopter makes a lot more noise, which would disturb the wildlife. So, that was an aspect… we had to be careful not to disrupt the passenger experience, but also the wildlife."
How long does it actually take to film
The Indian Pacific took 4 days, 3 nights. The Kimberley Cruise was mammoth - 10 nights, 11 days on the cruise ship. I love being at sea - when you’re in the mode of doing production and planning, it goes very quickly.
Here's when to watch SBS' 2019 Slow Summer:
The Indian Pacific: Australia’s Longest Train Journey
3 hour version: Sunday 6 January, 7.30pm - SBS
All day version: Saturday 12 January - SBS VICELAND
The Kimberley Cruise: Australia’s Last Great Wilderness
3 hour version: Sunday 13 January, 7.30pm - SBS
Saturday 19 January - SBS VICELAND
All Aboard! The Canal Trip
Sunday 20 January, 7.30pm - SBS
Saturday 26 January, all day, SBS VICELAND
North to South
3 hour version: Sunday 27 January, 7.30pm - SBS
All day version: Saturday 2 February - SBS VICELAND
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