To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle Of Passchendaele several films were made by Dan Snow‘s production company Ballista Media for The Royal British Legion. These included a series of 360 videos that I was asked to explore using archive footage and interviews with soldiers who fought in the battle.
‘Over The Top‘ tries to capture the feeling of that day. The mud, the rain, the tension, and the realities of people who knew each other struggling through the carnage. My main aim was to represent what the interviewees were describing in a respectful, but powerful way.
The images and archive film used were all produced throughout WWI, so the film represents the situation with artistic license in a way that an accurate recreation would struggle to do. The only visually factual elements are the horizon and the handwritten landmark references. This and the arc of the Sun anchor the imagery together. The light levels were animated to represent heart pounding and erratic gun fire. Video footage with camera moves were stabilised so that their content was fixed in the 360 space to make them feel more real – the panning action of the camera now acting as a view finder to the scenes.
Having never made a 360 film before, I was very conscious about keeping the format relevant. The immersive nature of wearing a headset is powerful but as a viewer I still like to know where I’m supposed to look, while also benefitting from the ability to wander. In this case, the benefit of 360 is the surrounding sense of danger. During the calmer moments there’s more time to look about. During the fighting, the atmosphere is more claustrophobic. Keeping the point of focus generally in the one half of the space also made sense in relation to the forward direction of trench warfare.
It was a privilege to be asked to work on this and I’m glad to hear it’s got a good response from the Royal British Legion. While compositing it all was dark at times, it’s almost impossible to relate to what these people lived through.
Here’s two Chelsea Pensioners taking in the film at the Passchendaele 100 launch. Image by The Royal British Legion.
Veterans Interviewed: James Dorrofield Wade, Ulrick Bernard Burke, Charles Heaton, Bert Fearns,
Veteran interviews provided by the Imperial War Museum
Archive film provided by Critical Past
Images courtesy of the Robery Hunt Collection, Australian War Memorial, and National Library Of Scotland
A Ballista Media production.