SAS: Who Dares Wins gathered more momentum in Series 2, which we shot in the Ecuadorian Jungle during May 2016. It achieved even higher viewing figures than its previous series and its completion was followed by numerous award nominations. So it came as no surprise that Channel 4 re-commissioned the hugely popular series. The CCC just didn’t know what to expect when it came to the next location!
Following a lengthy creative process, rigorous research and some difficult decision making, Minnow Films confirmed that the next phase of the SAS selection process to be shot with civilians would be the Desert Phase. Director of The Complete Camera Company, Ben Hoffmann, travelled to both Morocco and Jordan with the team at Minnow Films. The Wadi Rum in Jordan, although an incredible setting, came a close second to the small village of Tamagoult in Morocco. Tamagoult is located near to Agdz and is home to a famous Kasbah which was perfect for the base of the SAS: Who Dares Wins location. It provided enough facilities for the crew and contributors to film the show, but was remote enough to feel completely cut off from civilisation.
The CCC followed this visit up with a Technical Recce, accompanied by our chief sound supervisor Richard Bacon. This visit ensured that all of the final technical decisions were made before travelling out to film with the crew. It was agreed that a total of 42 cameras would be used in 48 different positions in order to cover the location effectively. 38 of the 42 cameras would be Panasonic AW-HE60’s remotely operated from a nearby gallery and 4 of the 42 cameras would be fixed Toshiba IK-HDS’s. These would be located to cover the Parade Ground, the Burial Crate, a corridor within the Kasbah and an exterior of the Mirror Room. There would be 30 personal microphones to record all of the Civilian Contributors as well as the Directing Staff, plus 34 atmos microphones to cover the large filming area.
The CCC were able to replicate their preparation of the Jungle Phase for the Desert Phase, preparing almost 3.5 tonnes of equipment that went on to travel by road and air. It was vital that The CCC built good relationships with the fixers in Marrakech so that when the kit arrived safely in Morocco it could be released by customs in time to begin the rig. Over 25km of cables travelled out, along with around 1200 individual items of kit. This was then reconstructed into a fully equipped fixed-rig village for the duration of the shoot.
The Moroccan weather is very unpredictable so it was important that The CCC were prepared for a variety of conditions. The exterior cameras were protected by bespoke outdoor housings, and any other cameras exposed to heat had wooden shades to reduce the risk of any damage or failure. In a torrential rainstorm the kit was still well protected from direct waterfall and The CCC’s electrician maintained an exceptionally high standard of health and safety throughout, which isn’t always easy in Africa. The CCC built the Gallery next to the Kasbah and used a 120KVA generator supplied by a production company in Marrakech to provide power throughout the location.
Another major challenge was the need to provide camouflage. It was important to be as discreet as possible, not only to hide the cameras from the action being shot but also to help the recruits forget they were being filmed. The CCC used desert camouflage netting along with sand coloured tarpaulins to cover large areas of kit and equipment. Brown paint was used to paint over the camera housings and a large amount of sniper tape was also used to cover the cameras, white cabling and any metal during filming. It was vital that any modern equipment did not spoil the look of the environment being shot.
SAS: Who Dares Wins Series 3 took 10 crew members 9 days to rig. This included all of the cameras, sound and engineering equipment across the interrogation room, holding room, prayer room, lookout tower, SAS mess, SAS dorm, courtyard, medical room, recruit mess, recruit dorm, mirror room and parade ground. The SAS DS team arrived in Morocco 5 days before filming in order to set up all of the trials, various sequences to be filmed and their dormitory.
One of the challenges faced by The Complete Camera Company on a fixed-rig of this scale is the amount of people that need filming at any one time. At the beginning there are 25 civilians and 4 DS, so there is a large amount of coverage required and it is vital that nothing is missed. It is always difficult to know at what rate this will reduce and during the process the civilian contributors do not know how long the tasks will last or when the course will be over, so it was important to make sure that each developing character and story was followed in as much detail as possible. This way the editing team would have everything they needed.
The final show was a 5 x 60 minute series following the Desert Phase of the SAS selection process and saw an increase of over half a million viewers in comparison to the previous series. Viewers were taken on an emotional rollercoaster, highlights included the ‘Walter Mitty’ civilian who lied about his army training and the interrogation section that saw a recruit expose his team to the enemy. It was a grueling, tough watch but exposed some interesting, heart wrenching personal experiences and proved to be a huge success.
Facts & Figures
Facts & Figures
Filmed: September 2017
Aired: January/February 2018
Channel: Channel 4
Viewers: 2.8 Million
“It is a sadistic joy to see people pushed to their limits, particularly personal trainers with bad tattoos or bankers who have a whiff of The Apprentice about them.”
“Just watching the intro to this show is psychologically knackering. Goodness knows what it must be like for the raw recruits being squeezed through the metaphorical mangle that is Special Forces training.”