Planet Earth

Planet Earth is a new documentary series from the BBC, co-produced with the Discovery Channel and quite likely some other people. It’s been billed as “the most ambitious natural history series ever attempted”, and it’s being promoted heavily.

It’s currently showing on Sunday evenings on BBC1, with an early evening repeat on Saturdays on BBC2. It started last week, and I’ve just found the time to watch it. And it’s definitely something to watch properly. “Visually stunning” is a bit of a cliché[1], but it’s the best description that comes to mind. The key to this was some nifty technology originally developed for the military, and which has been used in Hollyweird movies. It’s a high-definition camera small enough to be mounted under a helicopter on a 360° rotating platform. The clever bit is the way the mount (known as a Heli-Gimbal) totally cancels out wobble and vibration. Oh, and the incredible lens that allows the operator to zoom in on wildlife from a kilometre or more away. The result is the clearest views ever seen of animals in their natural environment.

Enormous herds of caribou, a polar bear emerging from her den at the start of spring, African hunting dogs and more, all seen in perfect detail without anyone having to get close enough to disturb them. Then there was the slow-motion sequence of a great white shark catching a seal. Quite incredible.

Then there are the landscape shots. Beautiful tracking shots over a wide range of landscapes, and some amazing time-lapse tracking shots.

The series is narrated by the ubiquitous David Attenborough, who does his usual fine job of describing and explaining. Each part ends with a ten-minute “behind the scenes” section, which adds to the interest.

If you can’t get to see the series, look out for a cinema version called Earth, due to be released next year.

Planet Earth: highly recommended.

[1] And you know I avoid clichés like the plague :laugh:

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