More than 40 years have passed since Britain fought a secret war in Oman. Former Major Nicholas Ofield has returned for the first time since the conflict to retread his battlegrounds with his son, filmmaker Tristan Ofield. This blog contains excerpts from the production diary Tristan kept during filming.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Anatomy of a Shot

I've been shooting a few extra cutaways to help chapter the various sections of the documentary.

The desert holds many secrets. Entire cities have been engulfed by sand. There are story's of brave crossings an survival. Moving dunes can snake through the desert almost alive.
Throughout the doc is a theme of discovery. For this shot I've decided to choose sun light, an AK47 round, and sand. The aim is to create a quick mysterious shot that will eventually become one of a series of shots.

Here is a quick run down of the kit I'm going to use

Dedo 300watt light with dimmer. This is a simple tungsten light whose brightness can be controlled from around 3000kelvin to 4200k. Gives off a nice warm light. The light can also be adjusted closer to the lens to control the spread of the light cast.

Two containers of beach sand gathered a few days ago while on assignment down in Bournemouth.

Two orange gels (half cto and full cto). To warm up the light in case the Dedo doesn't quite cut it.

Cheapo can of compressed air. Picked this up for about £2. Very handy for a quick blast to clean your lens or in this case to simulate a breeze.

Smoke machine. Gonna use this subtly to accent the breeze from the compressed air.

Painters tray this is where I'm going to create the scene. Using the time honoured principle that the audience never knows what is just outside the frame. In this case my desert will be less than half a meter, but the camera doesn't know that.

So here we are. Took about 30 mins.

The round positioned pointing slightly towards the lens give the shot a sense of perspective. Not sure if I'm too keen on the negative space on the right of the frame. Maybe could add some machine gun links or pieces of shrapnel trailing off into the distance. That might give the shot more depth and a sense of continuation - like the scene is bigger than it actually is. The light should extend all the way to the top of the frame. It looks quite moody, which is okay but I'd like to see it washed out. Some slow dolly movement would help keep the shot interesting for longer too. But for a first attempt it's not too bad.


Monday, 16 July 2012

That is a military map, it is unlikely to list interesting flora and fungi

I'll admit to being a little Balza about the danger of mines.... In fact the only thought going though my head while we were traipsing through the ground of Op Dragon was tr la la la la la la la it's hot

It only really dawned on me today when reviewing the interview I did with Mike Austin, that the danger became apparent.

Operation Dragon is a long story that I won't go into right now. Needless to say it all started with a landmine.

Okay it's been 40 years, the chances are everything that is going to explode would have done so by now. However that's kind of like thinking - that football pitch is 99% free of land mines, now go play.

The old man refused to go into the remains of any sangars because an old enemy trick was to mine sangars in case anyone went back into them. Was there a mine that had sat waiting 40 years for us? Luckily no.

It can't have escaped anybody's notice that blog post have been a little lacking recently. Well it's back on the doc all guns blazing now. With an aim to having a rough cut by January. Then I'm envisaging a KickStarter Campaign to buy permissions for news footage, music, some extra days shooting, as well as some After Effects work.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Interview Extract - Major Nicholas Ofield, Sultan's Armed Forces

Q: Were there any particular hazards working in this type of terrain?

A: Well apart from people trying to kill you there were other unpleasant things like Camel Spiders, a few snakes, Scorpions, the heat, dehydration. Having to carry an awful lot of water. A great diurnal change in temperature. It could get up to 45° in the daytime and dropped to 5° or 6° at night. You were generally very physically debilitated. Jebel sores, which were an infection rather like jungle sores, developed and wouldn't clear. I had my forefinger and thumb - you could actually see the bone through the rottenness and the puss. The only treatment they could give was to bathe it three times a day, for an hour in potassium permanganate solution. What the doctor was unable to tell me was A) how I got three spare hours a day to bathe my hand B) where I got container and C) where I got potassium permanganate solution from.

Q: How did you adapt to the extreme heat?

A: It was a matter of common sense. You have to remember that the British Army has a lot of experience in hot climates. From being in India for years and years, to the North African desert during World War II, and afterwards in the Gulf. It's just a matter of essentially drinking when you feel thirsty, but remembering that you've only got a certain amount of water which is what you carry. We never followed this modern trend that seems to be "I must get hydrated" and ordering people to drink on the spot. We never found that necessary. We also took plenty of salt with our meals - as much as we could. 

You would carry your parka with you to wear at night. So sometimes you would move out at night time in your shirtsleeves, you would stop put on your jacket, your sweater, wrap scarf around you, then just after dawn you have to take it all off again because it was getting very hot. When you woke up in the morning you turned your boots upside down and banged them together just to make sure there weren't any Camel Spiders or Scorpions inside them, and before you went to bed at night you shook out your sleeping bag to make sure you didn't have any visitors.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Just a small announcement. Joining the team. Okay team is a strong word. Joining me for phase two of filming is director of photography, and my good friend, Alistair Little. A graduate with a 1st in Cinematography from Stafford University and an RTS award under his belt - I'm over joyed he's agreed to continue our creative love affair by deciding to work with me yet again.

Here are a few examples of his work