I am midway through the Planet Earth DVD that I got for my birthday and I could not wait to finish it to blog about it.
Words are not enough to express what an inspirational product this is. It marks a new era in how nature is filmed and more importantly how it can be understood. I've grown up watching nature documentaries ever since Life on Earth, but this one takes it to a fantastic new level, thanks to new technology brought by Cineflex called the Heli-gimble. The photo on your left gives a hint as to what it is. But before I explain what that does and why it is earth shattering, let me remind you as to how we all grew up watching documentaries. Imagine a typical scene of lions hunting wildebeest. There is no spelling error in that word by the way, it aint wilderbeast or wildbeast, but I digress...
The first typical shot is that of the herd, shot from shoulder height or below. You see a bunch of animals move by in and out of the frame, the scene is covered in dust, it focuses in and out between an animal nearby and an animal far away.
Then you see a pack of lions stalking the herd. It is not clear at this point whether you and the lions are looking at the same herd. For all you know those lions may have been filmed a month earlier. Then you cut to a scene where you see a mother wildebeest (or gazelle, or kudu, or zebra or antelope) with its calf. The narration that follows is, I kid you not, identical in every documentary every filmed. It goes like this: "The lions are looking for the injured, weak or newborn that will make easy prey." It must be a standard line you have to include before you are allowed to film in the Serengeti. I have not yet seen the filmmaker with the cojones to say "We are going to follow this pride of lions until they hunt a badass alpha-male bull in its prime and bring that beast down and we are not going to give up until we film it." But I digress again.
Then the lions start running, after they hear the African drum background music, going tum-tum-tum-tum, which is also a standard, and the chase begins.
At this point, there is confusion, the lions get lost in the grass, the jeep filming the lions can't keep up, the frames are moving up and down, the tum-tums get faster and faster, and somewhere in the distance you see the lion catch the wildebeest, and pow, cut to the next scene where a bunch of lions are eating something. The catch seemed real, the feast, could have been at a zoo.
The point is, with poetic license to humor, that, during the entire process you lost the big picture of what's going on with the herd, the other lions etc. I don't want to belittle the effort, many young kids, including myself, saw these in bewilderment. It was inspiring. We loved watching it.
Planet Earth takes this experience to a new level. The heli-gimble is a camera, mounted on a helicopter that can zoom in from 1km away. More remarkably, it compensates for the motion of the helicopter so the shots are rock solid from far away and close up. That makes all the difference.
You now can follow the hunter and the hunted from beginning to end, starting from a high up view, zooming down as the chase nears its end. Since this is all done from 1km away, the animals are completely undisturbed by the camera. You also see the massive herds move and change the terrain as they do so, rising massive clouds of dust. You appreciate how big they are.
The series is narrated by the master storyteller of storytellers, Sir David Attenborough. In his own eloquent words: "For th first time, wildlife can be put in context of the epic landscape in which it lives."
That sums it up. Our children will grow up with that understanding. Thank you BBC for making this inspirational series. This is a must own DVD, one where you don't look at the price tag. Thank you Ayse and Pete for giving it to me, it's one of the best gifts I've received in years.