UK's biggest ever 'drone swarm' deployed by Underbelly to create Edinburgh's Hogmanay's film

The UK's biggest ever swarm of drones has been used to help make special effects for a short film which will replace Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party.

Around 150 drones were launched in a remote part of the Highlands to create specially choreographed sequences for the film, which will be broadcast online over three nights in the run-up to The Bells.

The effects created by the drones, which were only used in the Highlands due to the heightened restrictions in Edinburgh, will be superimposed onto other scenes filmed at the Forth Bridges and across the city’s Old Town.

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Each instalment of the three-part film, which was made by a 40-strong team of artists, designers and technicians, will be broadcast on the official Hogmanay website from 7pm on 29, 30 and 31 December.

Actors David Tennant, Lorne MacFadyen and Siobhan Redmond will be among those narrating lines from a specially-commissioned poem by Scots Makar Jackie Kay.

The film, which was partly shot in the Spean Bridge area, is said to feature Scotland's first ever large-scale drone show.

It was commissioned by Hogmanay organisers Underbelly, who have a contract worth up to £800,000 with the city council to stage the city’s celebrations, after the official street party and all other public events were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Underbelly said the new film, which will feature a soundtrack by Skye electronica band Niteworks, would bring to life Fare Well, Kay’s poem, which will “reflect on world events this year, before looking to the turn of the year and our hopes for 2021.”

Special effects with the drone swarm were filmed in the Spean Bridge area of the Highlands.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, which has also secured Scottish Government funding for the project, said: “Taking inspiration from Scotland’s land and air, the new work will take viewers on a breathtaking visual journey with the help of 150 individual drones, creating Scotland’s first ever large-scale drone show and the largest drone show ever seen in the UK.

"Featuring stunning Scottish scenery, the story starts in the Highlands (near Spean Bridge) before moving to the iconic Forth Bridges with the finale in the home of Hogmanay – Edinburgh.

"From majestic snow-capped mountains to the historic Old Town of Edinburgh, this is a beautiful ode to Scotland not to be missed.”

Underbelly directors Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam said: “With 2020 being the year it has been, we want to ring out the old year and hurry in the new year, with a message of hope at a world-class event. Hope will be the universal message of the turn of the year and ours will be no exception.”

The Hogmanay film will be broadcast at 7pm on 29, 30 and 31 December.

Jackie Kay said: “It’s such a pleasure to be kicking off Hogmanay with this. It will be so different this new year for everyone - we have to take the company and the solace where we can.”

Donald Wilson, culture convener at the city council, said: “We’re very proud of our status as the home of Hogmanay and I’ve no doubt this will endure for many years to come.

“As with many aspects of our lives, we've had to adapt our plans for this year, but I believe we've found a fitting way to celebrate and mark the end of a highly unusual and challenging year - whilst looking ahead to 2021 with the hope and optimism that each new year brings.”

A message from the Editor:

The drone swarm has been used to create images like this one of a stag.

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Scots Makar Jackie Kay has written a three-part poem for the Hogmanay film.

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