Escape - A big show, a big adventure.


Escape is a big budget reality TV show where a team of engineers are dropped into an extreme environment and have to build an escape vehicle from a wreckage. When Dan Etheridge approached me to join his crew I jumped at the chance. This was a big shoot and an even bigger adventure for me around the globe. 


How extreme is extreme? Surely they can’t place these people in life-threatening environments can they? They can.

I’ve shot in some pretty hostile environment before, but due to the fast paced nature of the show and the ‘always on call’ nature of the drone photography, this was going to be unlike any shoot I’d done in the past. There were five episodes, each in a different location, each with its different geographic and environmental challenges. desert, hills, jungle, island and glacier.

Screenshot 2018-03-27 13.34.52.png

Dan, Sam Campbell (the Series Director) and I thought alot about the style we wanted to achieve. We wanted to be able to cut to the drone for the actuality, using it as another perspective, cutting in with the two cameras on the ground. This approach was pretty groundbreaking and as far as I’m aware had never been done before. Using a drone to shoot the reality part of the shoot instead of just GV’s and set up shots was a great idea but in practice, it was a different story on day. There were no pauses in the action, so I was on call every second of the shoot. My senses were in a constant state of alert to ensure we could get the drone in the air and above the contributors in seconds, often in the most difficult operating conditions. Think a Central America,  jungle riverbank covered in mangroves hiding crocodiles or a desert so hot that parts of the kit were literally melting.



It was also important for us to keep the style, look and feel of the drone footage the same throughout every episode. The setup shots were a mix of super low to the ground, slow-moving, lots of foreground on a 12mm lens mixed with some epic wide shots of the environment. We also wanted to shoot lots of bird's eye perspective, to try and simulate a top-down technical drawing style shot as the cast built escape vehicles on location.  

Screenshot 2018-03-27 13.35.05.png

I shot more footage over the 10 week period than I had shot that whole year. The drone was used throughout the whole filming period (apart from when it rained ice cold death for two days in Iceland).

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a blog detailing my experiences in each environment, the challenges and dangers we faced on a day to day basis. I’ll talk how our kit dealt with each extreme and how I operated as a solo drone pilot the shoot.

Watch this space.

Fifth Eye



Brendan Cleaves