A Russian Arm, a horse and jockey

05th September 2015

Making The Original Horsepower: The Russian Arm

If you are wondering how we captured the footage for The Original Horsepower, here is the secret.

I have been in the film industry for over 30 years and for the last 8 or so I have been operating apiece of kit called an Russian Arm. It is a remote giro-stabilised camera crane that sits on top of a car, which I operate from within the car using joysticks. There is a cameraman to operate the camera and then a precision driver drives the car. Together we form a team that can get incredible close up shots of things moving at speed. 

We have worked with horses quite a bit, mainly in big cinematic productions. We worked on Warhorse, Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel the Huntsman (Snow White has been given the boot apparently) as well as the live action version of Cinderella and Malieficent with Angelina Jolie.

An Russian Arm allows you to get very close to the action, which is useful with cars and horses. You can go from about four inches off the ground to about 20 feet in the air smoothly and in about 2 seconds while travelling up to 100 mph as well as moving the camera 360 degrees around what you are filming. Add to this the fact it is as happy on a ploughed field as at Silverstone and you have a pretty powerful piece of kit.

We always try to make sure that any horses we work with are familiarised with the equipment. First they are shown it parked up and walked past it a few times. Then we move it gently so that they get use to it, before driving slowly past them. Oscar was very professional - he took it all in his stride.

Normally the film horses we work with tend not to be thoroughbreds, so we were unsure what to expect, but Oscar and Tom Garner were brilliant.

When we finished the first run, Des Hills, who was driving that day and is an very experienced Russian Arm driver, said we had hit 40 mph. We have never been that speed before with any horse. 

The camera was five feet away from Oscar and you can see at the end of film he is really stretching out. He seemed to be enjoying racing the car. He had a competitive streak in his eye and wanted to beat us!

What did I do next? I was at the Algarve International track with a new car and then off to do a little bit on Game of Thrones. I am only as good as the man who is driving so all credit to Des.