In the Summer of 1985 QED decided to make a programme exploring the reason for the shape of the British Isles. It would be illustrated by an aerial journey around the coast of England, Scotland & Wales which would last the programme's duration - 29' 15".
It was decided to shoot this on video and a camera was slung under the rear fuselage of an RAF Hawk (the RAF undertook this as a 'training exercise') with the Betacam recorder mounted in the rear cockpit. This installation limited the Hawk to 450 knots and knocked a large hole in its fuel consumption. The camera, of course, pointed backwards to avoid filling the lens with flies before the aircraft had even taken off.
|The producer was Laurie John and he underwent a brief training course to enable him to fly in the rear seat and operate the Beta recorder. As the maximum duration of each tape was twenty minutes and the whole idea was to obtain a continuous flight, the pilot, Ray Threlfall, would fly a race track pattern while Laurie changed tapes and then re-inject the aircraft back into its original course. It actually worked very well indeed!|
|The still above shows the Hawk beginning its approach to Lands End to begin the "Whizz".
As the camera was pointing backwards and the aircraft was traveling at only 400 knots, it was essential to not only reverse the motion but to speed it up.
The tapes came back to TC and were dubbed to one inch and then run backwards at 3x using the VP3 in VT17. Eventually the whole flight was converted and the editing began.
It was immediately apparent to both the producer and the editor (CB) that it was impossible to watch pictures traveling at Mach 10 full frame for any duration without being violently ill! So, although the action was continuous (a judicious electronic cloud was needed for an edit over the Forth bridge) it was most mostly quarter framed using the Quantel 5000 and other images run behind. It is the only edit I have ever done using Ordnance Survey maps as notes! The editing finished in February 1986 on the day the Space Shuttle 'Challenger' exploded shortly after launch in Florida ....... memories. To watch a short segment where the Hawk 'accelerates' to Mach 10, click the icon to the right.
Later on Laurie made a two and a half hour version "Shape of the Nation", which was much less frantic and was transmitted on Boxing Day (1988 I think).