Based on the Leo Tolstoy novel and directed by Tom Harper, the six-part BBC miniseries War & Peace follows the fortunes and losses of Russian aristocrats against the epic backdrop of Russia’s wars with Napoleon. Several Blackmagic Production Camera 4K digital film cameras were used by cinematographer George Steel and second unit director/cinematographer Stephen Hall to capture sequences throughout the project, which was shot on location in Russia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“Having a small handheld camera [whose footage] matches your primary package is perfect. It allowed us to react to unexpected moments,” Steel says. In fact, Steel shot one of his favorite scenes using this setup: “Without revealing too much, we film a very intimate moment when a character deals with the passing of a loved one.”
The Production Camera 4K “was worth its weight in gold,” Steel reports, describing another scene recorded with the camera: “There is a shot of Andrei Bolkonsky [played by James Norton] outdoors with the fog swirling around him, before it cuts to a close-up.”
James Norton as Andrei Bolkonsky in War & Peace. Photo by Laurie Sparham/BBC.
In an unusual shooting configuration, a Production Camera 4K was fitted to an octocopter to capture elements of dialogue scenes. Steel explains, “In one particular scene, we see a top-down view of a father and son walking through the snow, which starts with an aerial view through the tree line.”
The finished project “is a testament to [director] Tom Harper, who’s done an exceptional job of modernizing the story and making it relevant again,” Steel adds.
War & Peace was produced by BBC Cymru Wales Drama, in partnership with the Weinstein Company and BBC Worldwide/Lookout Point. It premiered on BBC One in January, and later that same month on A&E, Lifetime and History in the United States as four two-hour episodes.