It’s always 20 cases these days. The return from Botswana had two of us turning up at the check-in desk in Maun with 20 filthy label-encrusted pelican cases of equipment and two pieces of personal baggage. That was to film lions. Now, we’re leaving for Arizona to film ants - with about 20 cases. We’ll probably need two cars to carry it when we get there.
In the old days, we would have had maybe 5 or 6 cases - a 16mm film camera, a few lenses, tripod, a couple of batteries. and maybe 30 tins of 16mm film (equivalent to 2.5 hours of material). But we are told public demand needs more and more incredible imagery. So now, to film ants, we need to take about 5 different cameras, which if used carelessly could easily create hundreds of hours of digital video. There is a 'normal’ camera, for er 'normal’ scenes, a miniature HD camera that rides on Frankencam* for moving tiny wide angle lenses into the heart of the action, a small infra red camera to film ants that don’t like visible light, a Starlight camera to film ants that really don’t like light or heat. All these cameras need about 50 different lenses. ‘Normal’ lenses, close-up lenses, really close-lenses and ultra-close lenses.
There is a case of cables - video cables, power cables, usb etc etc etc. And gaffer* tape. Thankfully, budget constraints meant we had to cancel the slow motion camera. So we’ve just got the 400 kilos - packed carefully into 20 filthy label-encrusted cases (the insides are of course immaculate).
We’re now off to the desert with all of this 'advanced’ technology to meet some of the most advanced societies on the planet - the ants. Let’s hope that our numerous cameras don’t disappoint and come back with incredible scenes of the incredible things we have read about.
* Frankencam is a motion-control device invented by Ammonite
** The gaffer is traditionally the person who is in charge of all the lighting, who liases with the director and director of photography. The gaffer may just have a '2k’ to move around or they may be in charge of thousands of lights using enough power to run a small town. Either way, gaffers have given us some very good tape.