While rope access is of course essential when working at height on complex construction and maintenance projects, some of the most exciting rope access work we do is with production companies and film crews. Have you ever watched a natural history documentary or an action film and thought to yourself: how on earth did they even film this?
Whether it’s a natural structure seen from an unattainable angle, or a tense scene in which a heroic protagonist dangles from the edge of a cliff, these seemingly impossible shots are frequently made possible only by means of rope access. In what follows, we look in more detail at why and how rope access is used in the film and television industry.
Why is rope access required?
Professional video cameras are heavy – very heavy – and getting them in the right position can often be a huge undertaking, especially when filming in difficult to access locations. As such, it often takes a rope access team to place camera equipment in vantage points and get that perfect shot! The rigging of equipment, the safety precautions, the rescue procedures – these are necessary elements to consider when filming at height. Since production crews usually have enough on their plate as it is, these services can be efficiently provided on-set by trained and experienced rope access technicians.
The conditions of these shoots vary from one production to another, but they always involve either dizzying heights or confined spaces. The production of a nature programme, for instance, might require filming from tree canopies, behind waterfalls or inside cave systems. On the set of blockbuster film, you may see dramatic stunts and set pieces that require equally dramatic locations and camera rigs. In the entertainment industry, it really is anything goes – and in the rope access industry we love a good challenge!
Film and television sets can be stressful environments, not least when the safety of the crew is concerned. So the presence of rope access experts and strict safety measures on these sets goes a long way toward reducing this stress, giving those somewhat frightened actors and presenters the peace of mind to do their jobs safely and confidently.
How is rope access provided?
As with any kind of rope access work, safety is a top priority. When it comes to on-set field support, rope access technicians are always prepared to respond with immediate emergency care and rope rescue if necessary. Further to this, depending on the circumstances it may be necessary to install fall protection systems and safety nets. Rope access also comes in handy at the planning stage, where the potential hazards of accessing and filming in hard-to-reach locations are flagged up during site surveys and risk assessments.
Making sure that all crew and equipment are correctly rigged up is another essential aspect of working at height with production companies. By providing their practical expertise in the planning and rigging of rope access operations, technicians not only ensure the safety and protection of everyone on set, but they also help directors gain the footage they need from the exact angle they need it.
In these cases, it can be useful for rope access workers to have some knowledge of how to rig industry-specific equipment such as camera mounts, cable dollies and filming platforms. Some creative flair might go a long way too! Indeed, production companies sometimes require camera operators who double as rope access technicians, trained in the fine arts of both cinematography and rope access.
As you can see, rope access has many uses in the realm of film and television production, as it does in other industries. Ultimately, this application of rope access is all about perfectly fulfilling the artistic and practical needs of a given production, all the while making sure that everything is both safe and legally compliant. With rope access, no location is too outrageous or far removed. The possibilities for production companies are truly endless.
At Martin Castle Ltd, we pride ourselves on our vast array of experience not only with the usual jobs, but also with the unusual ones. If you want more information about our services, or if you just have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.