Get Your Heart Jumping

Hi Everyone, Nathan here,

So the summer has come to an end, the nights are closing in and we are getting out our  jumpers for the winter ahead, that means one thing, the jump season is upon us and this year I got the opportunity to help create some excitement about it.

On a hot Monday afternoon at Windsor Racecourse in August, Dave James and I had a meeting with Abigail Sawyer who is the Group Digital Manager from The Jockey Club. Her task was to ask us to come up with a visual idea to get everyone excited about the upcoming jump season.

After an hour of going back and forth with ideas, nothing was quite hitting the mark, then it came to me, something i had wanted to do from the first time we started Equine Productions back in 2012. 

I had seen a promo film done by a company called Kopter Kids and it was show how the new Sony FS700 “camera” worked from the air attached to a remote control helicopter.

We at EP have been doing aerial filming for a long time now and its been a huge asset to our business, but I've never had the opportunity to use our aerial drone while filming horses schooling over fences. Abi and Scott Bowers (TJC Group Director of Communications) loved the idea.

Abi was keen to see how quickly we could achieve this, she asked me to get started with the organisation of it all, what jockeys would we use, what horses, what type of camera, where would we film it and what would it look and sound like? 

The answer to all those questions were easy - I have had this whole shoot planned and executed in my head for two years, I even had the music picked out, I just wanted the opportunity and the project to make it, Abi was sold, she could see my vision and passion to get this concept off the ground.

Straight away I knew who I would get involved to help me choose the riders to feature in the film.

Will Kennedy and i have been friends for a number of years now and we both want the sport of horse racing to look a certain way, we don't want to change racing, we just want it to be attractive to a younger audience and the way to do that is to make it look cool. The idea wasn't a hard sell to Will, he could see how it would work, we just needed the riders and the horses to help achieve our goal.

For me I wanted to make it look young and fresh – we wanted the next generation of champions to be the stars.

Will made a few calls to the boys we had in mind and it was a big yes all round, we had the guys we wanted. Coleman, Powell Jnr, McLernon, Sheehan, O’Farrell and Kennedy, the next step was choosing horses.

I had organised grooms to look after horses as well as a vet on site to make sure all the care they needed was at hand. I went into my phone for contacts of trainers and friends for advice on what horses I could use and I had a great response.

The one thing I love about this sport is the community and the pulling together of it, we found six perfect horses for the job within days, three of them were ex-racehorses and the other three were current racehorses and my worry about the potential of them being mentally tired after the long filming day would be blown out of the water - but that will be revealed later in the blog.

The location to shoot the film was an easy one for me. I've lived in Lambourn for more than seven years now, I know the gallops well and I've often thought about certain shots I would do if I ever got he opportunity, the summer months had dried the ground out, so we weren't able to school the horses on the grass for fear of injuring them, so the all weather schooling ground which is owned by the Jockey Club made perfect sense to me to use.


The filming day had come - 23rd of September - everything was organised, the weather couldn't have been nicer, mist in the valley, a bright blue sky and not a breath of wind, conditions were perfect. 

The storyboard had been planned and double planned, we had organised everything we needed to keep all the crew, jockeys and horses happy on the day, all we needed now to stat filming.

Our first shot to organise was the tracking shot, this was where we had a vehicle traveling alongside the horses, while Simon would hold the MOVI (a stabilised camera mount) and Ben who was sat in the car with the driver would be controlling the camera with a remote control.

While this was going on I had Dave our other camera op tucked by some trees that ran along side the schooling ground to get some reveal shots on the slider.

After a number of goes with the tracking vehicle we were really happy with what we were getting - and the jockeys were all blown away with the images they where looking in the play back. I had kept communicating with each jockey to let me how the horses where reacting to what was going on around them and if they thought we need to rest them or if we were getting to close, then let us know, fortunately the never happened, the horses where awesome the weren't bothered by any of it. In fact it seemed to me that they were really enjoying the day.   

After we had ticked all the MOVI shots of the list, it was on to the close ups of the fence, we had Brendan Powell Jnr on Morestead and Conor O’Farrell on Scotts Dragoon. I asked them both to jump as close to Dave and I as possible. The shot I wanted was a head on shot, but we would be stood on the opposite side of the fence. I was expecting both horses to be a little wary of Dave and I stood there, but to get both as close as they safely could be - it was amazing.



We were getting through the shot list and all we had left to do on the day was the aerial scenes. We have done a lot of filming with the drone around horses and for what ever reason it doesn't seem to bother them, but I'm still very cautious about letting it take off near them, so i always like it in the air before we get close the horses.

The shot I was keen to get, was as the horses are cantering away from us and over the fences, the drone would follow them at around twenty feet from the ground and then over take them in the air - this would give Ben the opportunity to pan the camera downwards, enabling us to see the horses jump underneath us. This was easier said than done, horses travel at around thirty five to forty miles per hour, the drone can easily go quicker than that, and it takes a skilled camera op/pilot team to keep all the horses in shot when you’re looking at the drone from the ground.     


Simon our drone pilot has had years of experience and after a couple of attempts he nailed the shot. Ben and Simon our aerial and MOVI team are amazing, when it comes to getting shot with all this modern technology they certainly do shine. 

So the day had come to and end and we got all the shots we wanted from that day, all the horses were taken home and we then started the long process of getting all the footage onto hard drives.

After we had converted all the footage into files we could work with, we started on the process of putting all these jig-saw pieces together, the only thing we were missing was to see if we could get the music I wanted.

The song i had in mind was a track by Hooray For Earth called “True Loves” its a track i have been a fan of for some years and when I heard it, i knew it would be great to cut this film to, the hard thing was getting to use it. I searched the band on the internet and found an email address for one the guys in the band, I contacted him explaining what i wanted the track for and why it was so important to me to use, he then forwarded me onto his licensing company here in the UK and we struck up a deal, happy days I had my music, all I needed now was the opening shot.

This whole shoot was storyboarded to every shot and the only two shots we physically couldn't do on the main filming day was the start, this was going to be what we call a time-lapse, now i wont go into all the technical aspects of how a time-lapse works, so to put it simply, we set up a camera to take a picture every ten seconds over a number of hours and when this is put together and played at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. These moving images have always amazed me especially when done well, you get to see the world in fast motion and it great for sunrises and clouds moving at speed.

What Ben and I had planned to do was a little different, we didn't want just a sunrise, we also wanted to set up a camera to film the stars at night. So a few days after the main shoot Ben and I waited for a clear night and headed back up to the schooling ground, we set up two cameras, one next to the fence and another set back from the fence to get all the start in the back ground. 



After around eight hours, we went back to the cameras and put the footage into the editing suite - what we got looked amazing, I sent Ben home to Bournemouth and I decided head back up to the gallops to get the sunrise. 

The edit was coming together, we were now in the position to send the rough cut to Abi and Scott. They were thrilled with the way it was coming together, the only thing that was missing was the Jockey Club branding - they was keen for the branding to be subtle but effective. 

We decided to put the JC branding on the landing side of the fences, we got our graphics team to start creating this, but it wasn’t an easy task and our team did an amazing job, we didn't want the logo to look like a graphic, we wanted it to look authentic and look like the branding boards you see sponsors use on all the jumps at all UK racecourses, the results were great, Abi and Scott were really happy the how it all looked and they were happy to sign the project off.

The release date was an exciting time for us all at EP, we had sent the finished version out to all the jockeys, they were really happy with the finished version and we were excited about the fact that Channel 4 Racing had seen it and wanted to air it on live TV.

It’s a funny feeling seeing something that you have created shown on TV, before all these images that were appearing in front of me on the screen, where the images that only existed in my head, the feeling was getting must be the same as when musician writes a song then hears it on the radio for the first time, it was very surreal, but the whole thing couldn't have happened without all the people involved and i must say a huge thank you to them and also a huge thank you to the Jockey Club for believing in my vision. I know its no Gone With The Wind and I wont be collecting any award for it, but it was something that we had created and it looked “Cool” so it was job done as far as I was concerned.

Get Your Heart Jumping

Remember earlier in the blog i mentioned that i was worried about the current racehorses being mentally tired after the shoot? Well seven days after the shoot Brendan Powell's Keychain won at Sedgfield and Oliver Sherwood’s Milgen Bay won four days after that at Huntingdon, Brendan and Oliver both asked me when the next filming day was?

They truly are amazing animals and I will never get tired of filming them.