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Planet Insect - the testing circumstances of Natural History production during the COVID-19 pandemic

Planet Insect - the testing circumstances of Natural History production during the COVID-19 pandemic

02 Feb

After two years working alongside Steve Nicholl's fantastic production team, we are all justly proud of the 3-part natural history series that was the end result. Especially when considering the testing circumstances of such a production during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are insects everywhere right around the globe - all manner of exciting and exotic locations to visit, but just as the production kicked off, so did a global pandemic. Time for a change of plan. We'd always planned some sequences in our dedicated macro studio, but now to keep the production schedule on track we need it to scale up big-time. If we can't go to the rainforest, the rainforest will just have to come to us…"

Steve Nicholls, Producer Planet Insect

The team built some ingenious sets on which insect wranglers gathered their six-legged talent to perform in front of state-of-the-art camera technology, capturing some unique and innovative scenarios never seen before in a natural history programme. At Olaus Roe we enjoyed helping make many of these scenes come to life through our CGI modelling and shot compositing. The finished series is available to view on Curiosity Stream and has been rather appropriately narrated by Star Trek's Kate Mulgrew, revealing some jaw-dropping facts about the Earth being inhabited by alien worlds right under our nose - insects.

"A busy schedule of studio shoots planned and executed with feature film precision kept the show on the road.
Between ingenious studio setups and intrepid scientists, we managed to stick to our production schedule despite the very worst that the pandemic could throw at us."

Steve Nicholls, Producer Planet Insect

View the trailer for Planet Insect here

Christmas Idea looked good on paper...

Christmas Idea looked good on paper...

14 Dec

Seasons greetings from our Bristol Clifton Studio

We hope you enjoy our animated winter dash around Bristol in this year’s Christmas video. Wishing you joy at Christmas and prosperity in the coming year.


Carolyn Grace

Carolyn Grace

09 Dec


Carolyn Grace, former Spitfire pilot passes away

Sad to hear of the passing of one of the figureheads of the aviation world, Carolyn Grace who once gave us at Olaus Roe the amazing privilege of allowing us exclusive access to follow the family's flying season for a programme pilot we had for Channel 4 (who then unbelievably passed on it!)

An announcement was made by Daisy Grace, Carolyn’s daughter-in-law: “It is with great sadness that we must announce that Carolyn Grace has been killed in a car accident on Friday the 2nd of December 2022. This is a traumatic, and unexpected, loss to all of us and at this time we would like to request that you respect the family’s privacy.”

Carolyn had taken on the incredibly onerous task of operating and flying the Grace Spitfire, ML407, after her husband Nick Grace was killed in a car accident in 1988. Nick, an engineer as well as a pilot, rebuilt the Spitfire over five years and first flew it in 1985. ML407 is an historically important aircraft, flying more than 176 operational missions during WWII including combat on D-Day over Normandy.

Carolyn had told the BBC in 2011, ” To keep our Spitfire operational and keep it for the embodiment of my husband I had to learn to fly it. There had to be another Grace in the cockpit.”Carolyn made her first solo flight in the Spitfire in 1990 and went on to earn her Display Authorisation and flew the aircraft at airshows and flypasts. A thrid Grace got into the cockpit when her Son Richard Grace learnt to fly the Spitifre and has since gone on to become one of the world's most respected warbird pilots. He continues to fly ML407 where it is currently operated by 'Ultimate Warbirds'. Our thoughts are with Richard and his family at this difficult time.

Something Spooky

Something Spooky

31 Oct

A Halloween look at our haunted past in visual effects

At Halloween we are reminded of the scary (and often gruesome) effects our clients have challenged us with in the past. These have included eerie floating spirit balls illuminating caves as they make their ghostly way through the passages. Dimensional rifts tearing gateways into the afterlife, peeks at burning scenes of hell, ghosts, vengeful zombies, demons and demonic door knockers, death by various sharp implements and the accompanying blood. Oh the blood...

We enjoy working with the film producers in the challenge of making these scenes believable within what is quite often a modest budget, and they are always a lot of fun to make if you're not too squeamish about the outcome. It's also always great to later see these vfx shots in context in the finished film, when they really make their proper impact within the final edit complete with the popcorn-dropping jump-scare sound effects added in!

Virtually on track

Virtually on track

31 Oct

Virtually on track

Inspired by the successes of the use of LED backscreens used for some of the shots in the Planet Insect television series, we have invested in the latest camera tracking hardware and software to take this a step further and allow us to produce our own virtual productions at our studio in Clifton.
This is a technical demo that we set up in collaboration with camera operator Kevin Flay and television producer Steve Nicholls, in which we are looking at the possibilities of the technology when utilising the set-up for macro shots.
We're capturing in-camera visual effects on an LED screen not only to get final shots on set in camera from the creative perspective, but also to get dynamic lighting reflections and interaction onto the subject matter themselves - be it animals or acting talent.
There's many additional benefits over shooting on green: first off all shots are final in-camera, and the talent can react naturally to the environment as they cannot against a greenscreen. Second you don't have green spill, instead you get dynamic interactive lighting on the talent. And lastly the creative decisions are being made on location instead of months down the road in post production.

In order to effectively track the position of a camera in the virtual environment, we have several virtual tracking sensors around the studio space and on the camera sending geographic coordinates to the pc. An unreal engine background environment is generated to drop seamlessly into the background on the LED screens.

James Bond 007 Films 60th Anniversary

James Bond 007 Films 60th Anniversary

14 Oct

Mr Bond, we've been expecting you...

This year sees a multitude of events, tv programmes and products celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1st James Bond film Dr No.

Back in 2010 we were helping EON films celebrate an earlier anniversary with their release of a series of hardback books. We produced a short animated promo that was rather appropriately 007 seconds long.

CGI Trucking with Goodyear Off The Road

CGI Trucking with Goodyear Off The Road

07 Oct

CGI Trucking with Goodyear

We have enjoyed filming OTR (off the road) vehicles for Goodyear in the past, including the huge haul trucks that run Goodyear tyres. Haul trucks are gigantic off-road, rigid dump trucks specifically engineered for use in high-production mining and heavy-duty construction environments. In the past we have filmed these in their natural environment in a quarry, each loaded with 100 tonnes of limestone. With giant trucks and rocks the size of cars on the move, this dangerous environment is a no-go zone for pedestrians, and so our drone cameras, go-pros and telephoto lens were ideal tools here.

This time around, the kit wouldn't need a deep cleaning from quarry dust afterwards, as we were asked to help out from the comfort of our studio with some CGI modelling. Tyres for these trucks are very, very expensive and are constantly monitored remotely using special Goodyear technology inside the truck to keep each truck running at maximum efficiency. Each hour a truck is down during maintenance is money lost in the quarry, and so monitoring can head-off potentially expensive problems. Fitting this kit to different types of OTR vehicle for use in such a hazardous environment needs to very secure, and so we worked with the Otrovez Agency in Bristol to supply intricate yet clear CGI instructional imagery to help engineers fit this monitoring equipment. An interesting CGI challenge for us, and having now been through the intricate technical side of producing these images, could probably confidently fit these sytems to the real truck ourselves!

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

07 Oct

Washing Machine Commercial Shoot

We were getting mucky (and clean again) designing and producing a pre-roll commercial for Blomberg Washing Machines. No travel involved getting to this shoot as we used our very own studio kitchen as a location, to help accommodate the modest budget. With the key shot relying on a spectacular slomo shot of our young star going head-first with a soft toy into a mud puddle, preparation was key as it was a bit of a one-take situation. With this in mind, we rehearsed the shot several times without the mud and also made some chromakey splashes of mud sans child and toy that we could add in post if need be. A quirky day of filming - and we had 'loads' of fun ;)

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II

15 Sep

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - 1926 - 2022

It is with deep sorrow that Olaus Roe joins the country in mourning the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On this occasion, we thought we might share some photos of when Queen Elizabeth herself was also behind the camera lens…

As well as her Majesty’s love for taking photos with various Leica cameras, she would often use a 16mm cine film camera to capture some moments of her travels.

Top right : Here her Majesty uses her 16mm Bell & Howell camera in Nepal in 1953 while King Mahendra offers shade with an umbrella!
Bottom left: Filming the arrival of the escort ship HMNZS Black Prince with a Kodak 16mm camera, while in the South Pacific en route to Fiji, aboard the SS Gothic, December 1953
Bottom right: Queen Elizabeth II with another 16mm Bell & Howell camera attending the Three Day British Horse Society Trials at Badminton, 9th April 1965

Goodbye Bristol Zoo

Goodbye Bristol Zoo

05 Sep

A short walk from our Clifton studio, one of the world's oldest zoos closes after 186 years.

Bristol Zoo Gardens, run by the Bristol Zoological Charity, opened in 1836 and the fifth oldest zoo in the world, closed for the final time on Saturday. Having welcomed 90 million visitors since it opened and its conservation programmes helping save many species from extinction, we feel privileged to have a small part in that long history when we filmed their television commercial back in 2006. The zoo offered six degree courses and had nearly 400 students studying alongside the zoo, having links to both Bristol University and the University of the West of England. And although the zoo is closing, students will continue to receive their education with the team, because in 2024 the Clifton site's sister site - The Wild Place Project, is to be opened and expanded as it takes on many of the Clifton animals. The Wild Place is a conservation park in South Gloucestershire featuring better access, much larger energy efficient buildings and with space for the animals to roam more freely.