We were approached by insurance company Protect Your Bubble to create a film featuring their brand ambassador, Geraint Thomas MBE. This was originally intended to be a challenge involving members of the public racing Geraint up Box Hill, but a last-minute decision by the National Trust not to allow the challenge resulted in a quick change of plan. With only a few weeks to go, we decided to take Geraint back to his home turf, Cardiff, and use the world-famous Bay Trail as the backdrop for an interview with him as he talked about what cycling meant to him.

We spent a day in Cardiff on a location recce, hiring a bike and cycling the entire length of the 6.2-mile route to scope it out for good filming locations: we knew we’d only have Geraint for a day, and that we wanted to maximise the use of the city while we were there. We shot the whole route using a GoPro, and used stills taken from this footage to create a location list.

 

To get the most effective balance between speed and versatility, we used four crews: a bike crew provided by Media Motos, two on-the-ground crews, and a drone unit provided by Surface2Air Media. As well as this we had a runner, a camera assistant, a director and Geraint’s PR person – as well as Geraint himself of course.

Filming with Drones

The CAA regulations for drone filming are fairly strict, and – in the UK, at least – mean that without a flightplan, it’s not possible to fly a UAV “within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure … not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft”, nor can it be flown within 150 metres of any gathering of people. This pretty much limits UAV work to the open countryside, unless you have the right flight clearances. We worked closely with the City of Cardiff Film Office to secure the right permissions for the locations we wanted to use, which covered two uses of a large drone (20kg or more in weight) and several more setups involving a smaller one (in this case, a DJI Inspire Pro).

Not Filming with Drones

Unfortunately, one thing that you can never predict is the weather. On the shoot day itself, it alternated between being sunny and downpouring most torrentially. The big UAV couldn’t fly in the wet, so we had to be adaptable with a few of the locations we’d planned, and ditched a few of them when the schedule got pushed back. We also decided against filming in the main tourist area when we quickly realised what a legend Geraint Thomas is in Cardiff: every time we started to set a shot up, people would approach him asking him for selfies, which slowed things down further.

Post-Production

We shot everything in SLog3 (apart from the footage from the Inspire drone, which was only available in 8-bit REC709), so it could be graded in post. Ultimately, as it was such a grey day and we weren’t using any lighting, there was only a limited amount we could do to the grade, but this still allowed us to make the image look a little bit punchier and more vibrant than it might have otherwise.

We finally added overlaid text which we tracked into the footage, together with Protect Your Bubble’s intro and outro branding.

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