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News & Insight

How The BBC Makes Planet Earth Look Like A Hollywood Movie

By Wendell Weithers on March 16th 2017

I grew up watching the various nature programs on The National Geographic or Discovery Channel with my father and I was always captivated by the imagery but, also the wonder of how they captured the footage in the first place. Recently, Vox completed a three part series on how the BBC captures its stunning Planet Earth series and the leap forward in quality from when I was a child to now is amazing.

In this series of videos, you will learn about the impact of the evolution of camera technology and filming techniques that have elevated the quality of these wildlife films to Hollywood level productions.  Let’s dig into this informative and inspiring series.

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1. Amateur Cameras, The Digital Revolution, & Image Stabilization

In this first video, you’ll learn about a filmmaker that overcame the stagnant thinking of the BBC leadership by using and “amateur camera” to capture never before seen footage. You’ll also learn how the switch to digital cameras and using image stabilization via gimbals opens up the creative freedom of filmmakers by allowing them capture shots that film cameras could not provide.

2. Sexy Slow Motion, Ingenuity & Time Lapses

Being able to shoot slow motion can add a dynamic element to your story but, with film, it was very difficult to capture. Again, the shift to digital proves to be an integral transition in freeing up the filmmakers to get better and more creative shots. Shooting time lapses was a bit more challenging as a suitable method didn’t exist for the BBC twenty years ago. However, in order to create a film on plants, they developed the technology suited to the task.

3. INFRARED Cameras, Thermal Cameras, and the Sony a7s

The biggest challenge to filming anything is the availability of light. Overcoming remote locations and confined spaces means nothing if you don’t have the light to shoot because well, you can’t shoot what you can’t see. So, the challenge for the BBC is filming creatures that are active during times with low or no available light without disrupting their natural flow of living. Unsurprisingly, the A7s makes finds itself a useful tool showing that Sony’s latest tech has wide range of applications.

For me, the most inspiring aspect of this series is that many of these advancements are accessible in some variant to shooters like you and me. Consider the GH4 and upcoming GH5, the A7s & A7sII, a6300 & a6500 are all cameras that are small, portable, shoot high frame rates, posses stabilization and can be stabilized via easily gimbal. In the case of Sony, you also have fabulous low light flexibility. The biggest limitation to what you shoot is your creativity and not your tool. So when my documentary is released, which is slated for sometime between now and eventually, you’ll see some of the same shots and techniques described in these videos.

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Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

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