Stamp’s Ben Uttley solo shot an extraordinary adventure across the globe where every piece of kit had to be carefully considered‭, ‬where reliability and weight were critical and the need for speed paramount

Sponsored by G-Technology

Ben Uttley‭ ‬Founder‭ ‬and CEO‭ , Stamp Productions

“The moment I heard about the plan to fly a Spitfire across the world‭, ‬I immediately wanted to film it and was certain that people would want to see it‭.

The Silver Spitfire is an original Second World War combat plane‭, ‬having flown at least 51‭ ‬missions with one confirmed kill‭. ‬It’s an incredible story and we’re now looking at a theatrical release to chime with the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain in August this year‭.‬

There was a crew of six including two Spitfire pilots – Matt Jones and Steve Brooks‭ – with the ambition to fly across 30‭ ‬countries‭. ‬The project was shot last year between the 5th August and 5th December with RAF legend‭, ‬and former Red Arrow‭, ‬Ian Smith MBE‭ ‬‭(‬”Smithy”) ‬flying a support Pilatus PC-12‭ ‬plane from which we filmed‭. ‬We had a special door fitted that I could open mid-air and‭ ‬shoot from attached to a military harness‭. ‬If the Spitfire crash-landed‭, ‬I could also open the door and throw out a safety raft‭ ‬if over water or supplies‭. ‬With video camera in hand and stills cameras strapped to me‭, ‬it left me sweating and shaking from the physical exertion‭.‬

“The speed of my G-DRIVEs working with my MacBook Pro was a lifesaver”

We had a grand send-off from Goodwood and got stuck in foul weather in Scotland on our way to Iceland‭, ‬stopping in the Faroe Isles‭. ‬We were three weeks behind schedule from almost the get-go‭. ‬The Spitfires lack modern flight controls and were effectively flying blind in sea fog that develops in minutes with treacherous icy waters below on the way to Greenland‭. ‬You can’t fly the Spitfire through cloud – it’s disorientating and becomes very dangerous‭. ‬At times the Spitfire was flying only just‭  ‬above the sea‭.‬‭ ‬We had to turn around multiple times‭. ‬

The expedition was fraught with danger from the outset‭. ‬It was incredibly exciting‭, ‬sometimes frustrating and very tiring both physically and emotionally‭. ‬

Extraordinary interest

The project received huge interest and we had a warm reception with huge crowds in many of the places we landed‭. ‬The Royal Air Force sent up a Typhoon to support us when we first set off‭. ‬The Italian air force flew wing-to-wing with us‭: ‬an AMX‭, ‬a Eurofighter and a military helicopter‭. ‬With the help of local air traffic control‭, ‬we flew right past the Statue of Liberty and the Pyramids‭. ‬

And we received hospitality from unexpected quarters‭: ‬like Bahrain‭, ‬where they had local collections during the Second World War‭ ‬to buy ten Spitfires‭; ‬or Kuwait‭, ‬who sent up an F18‭ ‬to fly by us‭. ‬

The world seems like a different place with this new perspective‭.” ‬

Form factor

Smithy says‭, ‬’history is littered with aeroplanes that have crashed because they were overweight‭.’ So‭, ‬there’s always a compromise with engineering kit‭, ‬tyres‭, ‬tools and spares coming first‭. ‬I was doing all the video‭, ‬still photography‭, ‬DITing and I’m 6’3″ ‬110kilos‭. ‬A Peli case was the starting point‭. ‬I was originally given 50kilos and at the end I was down to 22‭. ‬I must have packed and re-packed a hundred times to keep the weight down‭.‬

The Kenyon 6×6‭ ‬gyro was the biggest piece of kit so I had a stable platform to shoot out of the Pilatus plane door‭. ‬The Sony FS5‭ ‬was my A Cam shooting on an Atomos Samurai Blade in ProRes with five Sony stills cameras and an assortment of lenses including‭ ‬Sony G Master E-mount zooms I could use for both video and stills‭. ‬And a Laowa wide angle lens that I also got Matt‭, ‬one of the‭ ‬Spitfire pilots‭, ‬to hold while flying so we could get the view from the cockpit‭. ‬We then had five Go-Pros for the pilots’ ‬helmets and to mount on the wingtips‭. ‬Combined this created a lot of video and still assets‭. ‬On top of this I had my MacBook Pro‭ (‬and‭ ‬a spare laptop‭), ‬with USB-C ports‭, ‬four T shirts‭, ‬four underpants‭, ‬socks‭, ‬a fleece and coat and not much more‭. ‬

I had a system where I would back-up to two G-DRIVE mobile SSDs‭. ‬I kept one in my camera bag‭, ‬and the other I sent back to the UK when I could‭ (‬while retaining a copy until it was confirmed as backed-up‭).‬

Some countries can be nervous about media and I could hide the G-DRIVEs from the snooping eyes of security‭. ‬I could strip the FS5‭ ‬down to look like a domestic camera and hide the drives all over the place‭, ‬when I needed to‭. ‬I even hid one in a secret compartment in my washbag‭. ‬The G-DRIVEs are so small and discreet‭. ‬

I must send out a big thank-you to Nick at Salon Pro Sales who recommended them‭, ‬as well as the guys at G-Technology and Global‭ ‬Distribution‭. ‬I had just enough drives to carry on with the right storage capacity to fulfil the project‭. ‬Incredible pieces of kit‭. ‬

The need for speed

Every night I needed to DIT the footage and wrangle the stills and create the files and back-ups‭. ‬I was producing weekly updates‭ ‬for social for our sponsor IWC and supplied digital content as we went‭. ‬All on my own‭. ‬Pulling together selects for them to work up‭.‬

The speed of the G-Technology drives working with my MacBook was a lifesaver‭. ‬I could back-up the day’s assets within an hour or‭ ‬two every night‭. ‬Otherwise‭, ‬I might not have finished my DITing before midnight‭. ‬I was only getting five hours sleep most days‭ ‬before getting up at six or seven in the morning to pack my bags and go to the airfield‭, ‬even if we couldn’t fly that morning‭. ‬Day in‭, ‬day out‭, ‬it takes a toll‭. ‬

The G-DRIVE mobile SSD (left),‭ The G-DRIVE mobile Pro SSD‭ (right)

 

Fatigue was a real issue and threat‭, ‬so I needed to be able to work fast and the workflow and technology had to be incredibly reliable‭. ‬I never once had any issues‭. ‬

The USB-C transfer speeds to my MacBook Pro were lightening quick‭: ‬nearly eight times faster than the previous drives I was testing before I went‭. ‬I used the G DRIVE mobile SSDs for storage and back-up and the G-DRIVE mobile Pro SSD as the working drive to‭ ‬bring in the best bits to edit or to work up the stills‭.‬

They were so fast‭, ‬and they never failed us‭. ‬They’re like air in your hand‭. ‬I couldn’t have managed the workflow five years ago‭.‬‭ ‬The lightweight drives and the transfer speeds are incredible and they’re robust too‭. ‬With the Thuderbolt 3‭ ‬connection‭, ‬you can‭ ‬get a terabyte across in less than seven minutes on the G-DRIVE mobile Pro SSDs‭. ‬If there’s a Geek Society for G-Technology‭, ‬I’d become a member.‬”

The Silver Spitfire is a Stamp Production‭. ‬Stamp was founded in 2008‭ ‬and crafts content from mobile to cinema for brands and broadcasters and itself‭. ‬Stamp is a creative production house‭. ‬imagination and inspiration are its guiding lights‭. ‬Stamp have created films for The British‭ & ‬Irish Lions‭, ‬Red Bull‭, ‬Honda‭, ‬Land Rover‭, ‬Sky‭, ‬BBC and many more‭.‬

stamp-productions.com

Jon Creamer