Polecam Gets Close and Personal at Bass Rock

Steffan Hewitt shooting on the Bass Rock and on board the ‘Fisher Lassie’

At the invitation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, cameraman and Polecam founder Steffan Hewitt recently headed north to film gannets at Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.

The project was planned to include a shoot on the island itself as the RSPB team (Toby Hough and Robin Hill) were keen to get close and personal with thousands of nesting gannets under the watchful eye of Maggie Sheddan from the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

“Being much lighter in weight than traditional camera cranes of comparable reach, the Polecam system proved easy to transport even on and off a small fishing boat ('Fisher Lassie' skippered by Gordon Easingwoood) bouncing up and down in the North Sea swell,” Steffan explains.  “Once safely ashore we had to hike the equipment up steep steps, through the disused ruins of an old prison and onward to an open area full of nesting gannets whilst all the time running the gauntlet with hoards of dive-bombing gulls.”


Another strong point of the Polecam system is the speed with which it can be set up and used.  Steffan had opted to use the FishFace submersible head on his Polecam rig for both the land shoot as well as the underwater shoot.  Time was of the essence and cameras were rolling with the minimum of delay.  Steffan was able to get right in with the gannets and achieve stunning results alongside the occasional aggressive bird-strike to the FishFace head.  The FishFace is an ideal choice in these circumstances as it reduces the need for extra kit and is very time efficient.

“With the land shoot over,” Steffan continues, “the boat returned to collect us and we proceeded to the underwater shooting phase where we planned to capture footage of the gannets diving for fish.  We had several pallets of bait for this purpose and were soon surrounded by birds.  A strategy was established to attract the gannets and get them diving for fish rather than have the gulls snatch the bait early.  This soon pulled in plenty of dive-bombing 'customers' for the Polecam FishFace rig.”


The RSPB team used a combination of high-speed and normal-speed equipment which they will combine with the Polecam material to construct high-definition programme material. Source content was recorded on Compact Flash cards via an AJA Systems Ki-Pro Mini.

An underwater head for use with a tripod-mounted or handheld Polecam rig, FishFace is a completely submersible pan/tilt unit and camera housing.  The head can be used to a depth of around 4 metres on the Polecam or in a free-swimming environment to a depth of 10 metres.  The carbon-fibre boom is designed to flood and drain quickly.  FishFace has 360 degree pan capability and fully unrestricted movement, identical to that of the standard dry head.  Live transition air-water-air shots are possible.  The prototype FishFace was used to great effect during diving at the Athens Olympics.


Back at base in Kempston, Bedfordshire, Polecam is now preparing to head south for the 25-28 October Broadcast 2011 show in Madrid. The company will exhibit alongside colleagues from Spanish distributor Video Cine Import. Products to be demonstrated include the full Polecam rig plus the recently introduced modular Starter Pack with choice of Wide or Narrow high-precision motorised heads.