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Poldark: Capturing the Cornish coastline

The stunning Cornish coastline is as integral to BBC One’s latest primetime drama Poldark, as the tangled lives of the characters.

The stunning Cornish coastline is as integral to BBC One’s latest primetime drama Poldark, as the tangled lives of the characters, as Ross Poldark returns from war to find his father dead, his inheritance in ruins and his sweetheart now engaged to his cousin. In the channel’s lavish remake of the 1970s original series, which brings the novels of Winston Graham to life, the rugged cliffs around Botallack are used as a backdrop to Weald Leisure, the tin mines that Poldark endeavours to resurrect.

The Lens Foundry, who were already on set providing a range of VFX services as a splinter unit, shooting background plates and elements for visual effects company Lexhag, proposed an effective solution to secure beautiful aerial shots. “The production company knew that they wanted stunning, atmospheric aerial footage of the coastline shot at low altitude,not only to pinpoint where we are geographically, but also emotionally by shooting at various times during the day,” according to the Lens Foundry’s Adam Sculthorp. “We recommended using a remotely piloted drone over a manned helicopter, as this enabled us to fly in close and personal with the excellent stunt horse riders. The wind sheer over the cliffs can be challenging, particularly on the north Cornish coast, so we needed a nimble aircraft to ensure the footage remained steady and smooth.”

This is put to good use in the first episode, when Poldark has returned back to his family and having confronted them over dinner, rides out to the coast. A sweeping shot from the crashing waves, up over the dark cliffs and clouds rushing overhead perfectly mirrors the torment that Ross finds himself in.

The team worked as a self-contained aerial unit, and paired a Blackmagic Design Production Camera 4K with one of its larger remote aircraft for the shoot. “Because we’d already been working closely with the production team on the VFX shots, we’d already established trust and understanding for what we had to deliver artistically to remain in keeping with the rest of the footage,” continues Sculthorp. “Selecting the perfect aerial package is key. Size matters, but bigger isn’t always better.

Blackmagic’s Production Camera 4K enabled us to showcase the rugged cliffs of Botallack at a quality that could match in the grade what was being shot on the main camera package, but thanks to its reduced weight and size, we could also extend our flight times, meaning we could capture so much more in terms of variations in daylight and weather conditions.”

Sculthorp explains that the team chose to use L series EF lenses with the camera, to achieve an excellent exposure latitude, which was essential for capturing the breadth and scale of the landscape.