Adventure Filmmaking with Ian Burton


TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
What exactly is it that you do now/ what do you specialise in? How did you get started in filmmaking?
I'm an independent adventure filmmaker, specialising in shooting in remote and ‘vertical’ locations. I shoot my own projects as well as commercial projects for a huge range of companies, and I love filming world class extreme athletes pushing themselves to the limit, as well as working with less well known adventurers. You don't have to be the biggest or the best, a good story is what I’m interested in. I also freelance as a lighting cameraman from time to time, but mostly get called in by production companies for difficult jobs on ropes.
I was 17 years old and in college. I wasn’t happy with the things I was being taught and I was impatient to get on location and behind a proper camera with a real crew. So I spent most of my time volunteering on set and in studios. Before I passed my driving test I travelled the country on the train to get experience with wildlife cameramen, as well as shooting time lapses in studios, working with independent production companies, sitting in on edits of programmes, sorting through kit rooms, sending kit out on location, and generally just gaining as much experience as possible. I bought a 16mm ARRI just to learn how to take it apart, a trick which proved useful on location with the RSPB film unit!
My dream was to shoot wildlife films, and I was fortunate enough to work on feature documentary The Eagle Odyssey, as well as Spring Watch, The Natural World and a Christmas special, Cairngorms, Scotland's Arctic. But then I got a hankering for something a little different. I’d always done a lot of climbing, so I started learning about the world of adventure filmmaking. A few years ago, at MountainFest in Kendal, the biggest mountain film festival in the world, I moved my focus more to filming climbers and adventurers. This then led to filming the BBC series Climbing Great Buildings, and Wild Snowdonia, which won an RTS award for its director Jeff Wilson.
What are the greatest challenges you find in your work?
Budgets, but they never stop me from shooting a film. Having a small budget obviously affects how I shoot, but it won’t stop me. Perhaps the next most significant challenge, and perhaps the toughest one at times, is finding new ways of telling a story. I always try to avoid the most straightforward and mainstream ways of shooting, to make sure everything I shoot is as fresh and original as possible.
What are the most important pieces of kit you use, and why?
It's a cliche, but you can shoot a good movie with any camera really. That said, I love cameras that have that certain 'je ne sais quoi'. I’m a big fan of full frame in particular, but I also like the ability to use unusual lenses, so a wide range of lens mounts is useful.
The Sony F series probably best embodies what I want from a camera - relatively light, compact, full frame. The images look spectacular, and it doesn't cost a million pounds but has the X factor. When working on a rope and in remote locations, light and compact is crucial.
The other mainstay in camera gear is a GoPro. I haven't used the Hero 3 yet, but the 2 goes everywhere with me. It still amazes me what these things are capable of.
The next camera on my shopping list comes from the NX range of Handicams from Sony. I used the NX70 in Namibia for Driven to Despair and found it invaluable. It’s dust and shower proof, so with what I do for a living it’s a very handy piece of kit. Sometimes, when I’m in a situation where it's too dangerous or time consuming to get the 'main' camera set up, an NXCAM is perfect for capturing the special moment that is vital to the story, the one that would have been missed otherwise. Getting the shot is more important than capturing it in 4K or with your favourite prime lens.
I recently shot a short film (a Few Days in January) just using a Sony NX30 and captured some brilliant results with it. As with all cameras, it isn't really the camera that makes the shot, it's the light. I had mixed light whilst shooting this film and some of it certainly wasn't ideal, but the footage that came out of the NX30 was very pleasing indeed. I’m sold, and I’ll be buying an NX30 or 70 to have with me at all time on my climbing harness, for shooting those all-important unique moments, the ones that you can’t afford to miss.
Most hair-raising moment so far?
The most hair-raising moments are not often the times on a rope or in the mountains, as you’re so focused on the job. They’re usually the times when you're just about to set off and you realise what you are about to do. Once the camera is rolling, your head is in a different place.
Having said that, in the arctic a few years ago I'd walked up to the head of the Turner Glacier, at a point where it poured through a gap in the mountains, to shoot a time-lapse of the mountain range at sun set. I was sitting in amongst the crevasses where the ice was at its most turbulent, a little like sitting on a frozen rapid on a river. As the sun set and the temperature changed rapidly, the ice started to shift imperceptibly under my feet, but the noise was like cannon fire! I love the completely unexpected unique moments like that – they’re why I do what I do.
Honestly, my scariest moments are showing my films on the big screen, especially at premieres - I'll probably never get used to it.
(Ian’s full review of the Sony HXR-NX30E will appear in the June issue of TV-Bay)

Tags: iss075 | ian burton | adventure filmmaking | wildlife | documentary | remote | vertical locations | arctic | KitPlus
Contributing Author KitPlus

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Full Spectrum Remote Phosphor Lights from Photon Beard at NAB 2018

    Full Spectrum Remote Phosphor Lights from Photon Beard at NAB 2018

  • Calrec at BVE 2017

    Calrec at BVE 2017

  • Polecam Antelope Pico at IBC 2014

    Polecam Antelope Pico at IBC 2014

  • Photon Beard Photon Beam at IBC 2014

    Photon Beard Photon Beam at IBC 2014

  • Clear-Com: Tempest at NAB 2013

    Clear-Com: Tempest at NAB 2013

  • JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

    JVC GY-HM650 upgrade at NAB 2013

  • Autocue at NAB 2013

    Autocue at NAB 2013

  • Camera Corps at IBC2011

    Camera Corps at IBC2011

  • Bradley at IBC2011

    Bradley at IBC2011


Related Shows
  • Content you want, when you want it: Recommendation Engines

    Content you want, when you want it: Recommendation Engines


Articles
What is next in OTT
Mary Kay Evans In the past year alone, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the amount of OTT content that’s being streamed. In the first quarter of 2018, there’s been a 114 percent year-over-year growth in streaming video hours, and those numbers are only expected to rise. With OTT revenue predicted to reach $16.6B in 2018, a 40% gain over last year, there’s no question that OTT is booming, and that there’s never been a more critical time to pay attention to the space.
Tags: iss133 | ott | verizon | cisco | Mary Kay Evans
Contributing Author Mary Kay Evans Click to read or download PDF
Managing Technological Change
Alan Wheable Continual technological change in the broadcast and media industries can make it difficult to plan for the mid to long term. Typically, broadcasters and media organisation are still implementing the last set of changes to working practices when the next changes come along.
Tags: iss133 | omnitek | ip | waveform | vectorscope | ultra tq | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
IBC in a post Brexit world
Peter Savage 2 Cast your mind forward and we are not in 2018 but next year and, yes, it’s you and me walking to the departure lounge to catch the plane to IBC just as I, and perhaps also you, have done for the last 25 years. (By the way, where is my long service award – and perhaps a new pair of shoes as I must, surely, have walked the equivalent of five Caminos covering the 12 halls in the Rai). We are at the gate and my imagination kicks in as I hypothesize on what the trip might look like next year. I leave it to you to decide which is closest to what might be to come.
Tags: iss133 | azule | brexit | ibc | finance | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2 Click to read or download PDF
Why are trade shows still important
Mike Crimp First, the disclaimer: as the CEO of a rather large trade show, my opinion is likely to be skewed. However, I wouldn’t be here – now in my eighth year at IBC - if I didn’t truly believe that well-curated trade shows like IBC are a hugely important resource for our industry.
Tags: iss133 | ibc | innovation award | Mike Crimp
Contributing Author Mike Crimp Click to read or download PDF
OB999 Accelerates Hill Climb Broadcast
Nick Collier Over the last century, The Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb has been attempted by some of the world’s most accomplished racing drivers striving to be the fastest up the 1,000 yard, 1 in 6 gradient track.
Tags: iss133 | ob999 | blackmagic | atem | multicam | videohub | cleanswitch | premiere pro | hyperdeck | Nick Collier
Contributing Author Nick Collier Click to read or download PDF