The Trial : A Murder in the Family

The idea for The Trial was developed by Dragonfly and when they approached The Complete Camera Company to facilitate the shoot we were thrilled to get on board for our first project together. The project would be a ‘docu-drama’ in which a fictional crime would be tried by a genuine team of practicing QCs, a judge and a jury made up of the public. Some of the witnesses and the accused would be played by Actors, along with witnesses that are genuine specialists in their area of work.

This was a truly ground breaking show that would combine a hybrid of both documentary and drama so The Complete Camera Company would be responsible for all of the fixed rig cameras in the courthouse itself.

CCC Director Ben Hoffmann did 3 recces of the chosen location with production manager Kat Young and BAFTA winning Director Nick Holt. Dragonfly chose a courthouse in Newbury that was being decommissioned, which was the perfect opportunity for us to use a genuine court but with great access for filming. The court had just closed prior to the rig and we were filming The Trial before it was due to be repurposed.

The initial recce was a feasibility recce, during which we confirmed that the content required could be shot in the location and that the quote was accurate. The second, a technical recce, meant that we could establish the rooms that would be used, the cabling and equipment requirements and the set up of the filming gallery. The final recce was an editorial recce in which we confirmed specific camera numbers and locations.

The CCC installed a total of 39 Toshiba fixed mini-cameras, Panasonic AW-HE60’s and Panasonic AW HE120’s. These were situated over the court room, jury breakout room, jury deliberation room, witness waiting room, court foyer., barristers room, interview rooms and the judge’s chamber. In total there were 46 positions spread out over a very large area, which became a challenge when laying cables for each camera; we used almost 10km of cable to rig the entire location. The gallery was located in an office room on the same floor as the court room, which provided good access to the filming areas.

The rig took 5 days with 8 members of our crew, with one of the biggest challenges being space. Even though the filming covered quite a large area, once all the equipment and people were in place there was limited room to move. We had to use every part of the building very economically, and rig all of the equipment into very small spaces. One of the other challenges was the oak panelled walls of the courtroom. The CCC weren’t able to screw into any of the walls or attach anything that would affect the panelling, so we developed a Velcro system by which we could attach heavy cameras and cabling to the walls effectively.

In total there were 25 personal microphones, which included one for each of the jury members, and over 20 atmospheric microphones to cover the areas in which the contributors could be heard.

It was really important throughout the shoot to ensure that the Actors were able to integrate into the filming as though they were also genuine contributors; Dragonfly wanted the trial to feel as real and as spontaneous as possible so that the jury were able to make their decision as though they were trying a true case. This meant that The CCC had to remain discreet and sensitive to the various contributors throughout the shoot.

In total we filmed over a period of 2 weeks during which time 5 x 60 minute episodes were shot. These were aired nightly over the course of a single week; this really added to the tension of the whole show and helped to enhance the experience for viewers as they took the role of the jury on themselves.

The final outcome was a very unique insight into a world that cannot be penetrated by cameras; the audience were gripped and the programme created huge online debates about the possible guilt or innocence of the accused. The viewing figures far exceeded our own expectations and we hope that Channel 4 are able to commission another ‘The Trial’ soon.

Facts & Figures

Facts & Figures
Filmed: September/October 2016
Aired: May 2017
Channel: Channel 4
Location: Newbury
Viewers: 2.4 Million
Cameras: 39

Critical Acclaim

“It is all utterly absorbing”

The Guardian

“The Trial was first rate”

The Telegraph

“It was a case a thriller writer might have been proud of…The Murder Trial on Channel 4 was fascinating”

The Independent

“It provides a gripping insight into how cases are argued in court”

The Financial Times