Recently, we filmed a tv commercial in central London using a Russian Arm. For those that don't know what it is, that's it in the picture above. It is essentially a Mercedes 4x4 with a thumping great big automated crane arm attached to the roof. It all comes as one piece, on the back of a large lorry, and it's fast!

It's also dangerous. Well..... you wouldn't want to be knocked on the head by the arm as the Merc races past at 60mph..... or even at 5mph for that matter! To that end, as a location manager planning a shoot on the public highway, there are many more constraints to take into consideration.

(Click on the image above to read more).

 

Naturally we need to look at the creative brief that fits the script. If what you need is simple, then fine, perhaps all you'll need is a private road or a simple temporary road closure. However, our shoot took place on the 'open road', along about 15 miles to be precise. There were scenes involving the co-ordination of other vehicles (40 at one point); precision drivers; stunts and choreographing the movement of vehicles on the public highway with green traffic lights to ensure the fluid movement of the camera. 

So how do you achieve this? Well, there are two key tricks up our selves. 1st - Ensure you have plenty of police support. We ended up with 6 motorcycle out riders for our shoots from the MET Film Unit. 2nd - Find a good road that you can carry out a temporary road closure on.

Neither of these options are cheap. The time alone to co-ordinate a plan with the police, get it signed off by highways or go through the process for a road closure with the council, can run into several weeks of prep, and thats if you have a simple plan. A more complicate shoot sequence could take weeks or months of liaising with the correct authorities. However, any location manager will tell you that having police support is worth every penny. And the flexibility you get with a full road closure (none of this 'Stop/Go' business) is invaluable. 

Now you don't need the police on a road closure. If you have complete control of the road, the Russian Arm can operate safely. However, on the open road, you will require the police. They basically give you a "rolling road". This means they create a bubble around your key vehicles as you move, and prevent other members of the public racing past. They will also stop and hold traffic temporarily from junctions in front of you so that no one runs into the arm or disrupts the filming. Finally, they are there to ensure pedestrians or cyclists do not wonder into the road and accidentally hit by the arm. All of this whilst we're moving, filming and co-ordinating the action.

So, there you have it. A short sharp introduction when filming with a Russian Arm.