Sheffield Doc Fest 2016: Olly Wiggins on his doc ‘Swim the Channel’, shooting C300 and moving to the Alexa Mini

Swimming the Channel is about as big a challenge as you can meet; more people have climbed Everest. Olly Wiggins followed four people as they made their attempts for documentary Swim The Channel – coming to BBC4 soon – and faced a few challenges of his own.

Attempts usually take between 13 and 18 hours, so staying focused all that time while stuck on a boat out at sea took a lot of effort.

Shooting on the boat with the Canon C300.
Shooting on the boat with the Canon C300.

Olly, a DP who also runs facilities company S+O Media, was one of the participants in an excellent ARRI discussion panel on the art of cinematography in factual work at Sheffield Doc Fest – you can see my interviews with the other speakers here and here.

He shot mostly on a Canon C300 (35mm prime and selection of zooms), plus Sony FS700, a7S and GoPros. He needed a camera that was “small, light with small a codec”, partly to ensure easy access as he filmed on boats, but also because he wanted “something that didn’t threaten people” as the team immersed themselves in a community of swimmers.

Olly is an experienced DP. Seen here shooting with the ARRI Amira.
Olly is an experienced DP. Seen here shooting with the ARRI Amira.

Olly also explained why, if he could do it all over again, he would use his Alexa Mini – not available when he was filming the documentary two years ago. He is one of a number of shooters who seem to prefer the Alexa Mini over the sister Amira for factual shooting.

He’s used the camera a lot on his commercial and TV work and enthused: “The functionality, the ergonomics, the simplicity of use allow you to get on with the job you need to do as a cinematographer. You can see very clearly; it’s got great viewfinders, a very clear image – you know you’ve got great dynamic range; great colour reproduction.”

Sheffield Doc Fest is the UK’s leading factual programming event, bringing together directors, producers, editors, shooters, commissioners and buyers. This year 32,000 attended to watch films, discuss their work and the industry and do deals.

You can find out more about Olly and his work on the S+O Media website.

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