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OU on the BBC: Rough Science 4 Death Valley - Director's notes

Updated Tuesday, 29th August 2006

Milla Harrison shares her experiences of working on the series from a director's perspective.

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Milla Harrison, director Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team

By Milla Harrison (pictured right), one of Rough Science's team of directors

Directing on RS was a fantastic experience and I knew from the moment we picked up the scientists and film crew at Las Vegas airport, we were all going to have loads of fun over the next few months.

It was important everyone got on well, because the schedule was really gruelling. We had three days to film each programme, which were extremely long days for everyone. When the challenges were first read out by Kate on the morning of Day one, I would try and let the scientists all talk about their plan of action without any cameras on them. I had to stop myself firing questions at them straight away, as I was really keen to find out how on Earth they were going to do the challenges.

For programme four (impact), Mike, Kathy and Iain were set a very difficult challenge of trying to work out the size of the meteorite that caused a huge crater in Arizona, called Meteor Crater. It meant that Kathy, Iain and Kate (and my film crew; and me) had to fly to Arizona to get crucial measurements and clues about the crater, while Mike stayed at home to make his own mini craters.

A few hours after they were told about the challenges we set off on our 24 hour whistle stop tour of the Arizona crater. We hired a small plane to get us there, something I was not looking forward to - due to my fear of flying. We had to get there before the sun was going down and so time was against us, and being further south meant the sun set a little earlier than we'd all anticipated.

The first time we saw the crater it was breathtaking. It really looked like a giant footstep planted in the middle of nowhere. The measurements had to be done that afternoon, so Kathy had thought up an ingenious way of measuring the whole crater in a few hours.

All three of them worked very hard, while we filmed. I felt slightly guilty standing there watching them struggle on as they raced against the clock, but I couldn't help them as I had to get all the shots I needed. It was touch and go as to whether they'd get everything finished before the light went, but they made it. And as the sun set over the Arizona desert, I started to relax a little: they'd got all the measurements they needed, we had the helicopter to look forward to tomorrow and at last we could all have a beer!

The next morning the cameraman Tony and I were up at four to film the sunrise at the crater. I gave everyone else a lie in - and told them to turn up at six! We filmed for two hours at the crater's edge as the sun rose over the Arizona desert. It was a beautiful sight and well worth getting up for - although the whole shot, once we'd speeded it up, only lasted four seconds.

The helicopter filming was great fun. The doors were taken off and we were all strapped in. There were lots of shrieks and yells especially from Kathy who just couldn't stop screaming out "It's huge, it's amazing, oh my god it's incredible!". The view of the crater was even better 400 feet up and we could have all stayed up there for ages.

But the price of helicopter fuel is expensive and there was still one more thing they wanted to do before we rushed back to the workshop. Iain was on the hunt for clues about the crater and amazingly he found bits of the meteorite fragments that had smashed into the Arizona desert 50,000 years ago.

We stopped filming and each held a piece of the rock from space and when Iain said that we were holding something that was 4.5 billion years old - the age of the Solar System - I was blown away. It was a fantastic end to an incredible 24 hours.

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