I was asked to be part of a team undertaking some model/miniature filming work for a television show involving trains not too dissimilar to Thomas The Tank Engine, but with a rather more adult theme. It was for Frankie Boyle’s ‘Tramadol Nights’, a sketch show aired on Channel 4.
I brought the Canon 7D along, and we hired some 300w lights, then got cracking on what was supposed to be a one day shoot but which morphed into a gruelling four days, with an all-nighter pulled on the last day for good measure. Shooting models just takes a long time when it’s not something any of you have done before; we had fun working out clever ways of shooting things but it was time consuming I must say. We were all pretty frazzled by the end of it, but I think we managed to get some really nice shots in there. Credit goes to Matt Clarke and Olga Mesma for building all the models and sticking them together – I just did the lighting and cinematography, if you can call it that on such a small scale…
We filmed it all in 50fps so we’d be able to give the trains some weight when we slowed the footage down due to them being so very small. Apparently Thomas The Tank Engine cost around £10,000 per minute to make, was filmed on huge sound stages, and used pretty large, detailed models – needless to say ours cost a lot less and was filmed in a cramped bedroom with models around four times smaller. Even so I think we achieved a really atmospheric look to the whole piece.
We then had to wait on feedback before gearing up for re-shoots (which we knew we’d have to do as peoples’ minds change rapidly in television).