In 2006, after five years and more than $25 million, BBC’s award-winning Natural History Unit, in conjunction with the Discovery Channel, NHK and the CBC, presented the landmark 11-part nature documentary series Planet Earth, calling it “the definitive look at the diversity of our planet.”
But, like everything else that has been said about this groundbreaking series, which was filmed entirely in HD, even a description that conclusive is deficient. Awed critics and viewers alike joined in a chorus of “ohs and ahs” that expressed, as well or better than words, the visceral authority of their shared astonishment: The natural world presented in the series is so dazzling that, in some other discussion, you wouldn’t hesitate to call it otherworldly.
What follows are five things you didn’t know about the BBC’s staggering homage to the Blue Planet, Planet Earth.
1- One Planet Earth scene required over a year to shoot
The second episode of the series, entitled “Mountains,” endeavored to follow the hunt of the snow leopard, considered “the highest land predator on the planet” and notoriously difficult to find hunting in the wild.
Initially, crews took two separate trips to Ladakh, a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, but although each trip lasted eight weeks, they came away with about 10 seconds’ worth of footage -- all of which went unused in the original series. In an effort to get more footage, they changed locations and went to the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. Once there, the BBC stopped them from entering for safety reasons, since U.S. Marines and other military groups were in search of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. They had to wait a full year before entering the region and capturing the footage they wanted.
2- A new species was discovered during Planet Earth filming
With scores of camera crews digging under the snow-covered Gobi desert, scaling near-vertical cliffs in Pakistan, soaring over Mount Everest or diving under the ice in Lake Baikal, going pole to pole, burrowing deep into the Cave of Swallows in Mexico or cruising above the Himalayas with golden eagles, following lions on the hunt in the Namib or taking in water-worthy macaques gourmandizing on crabs, discovering a new species was almost a given. In fact, the remarkable thing is that they claim to have discovered just one -- a blind cave fish in Thailand.
3- Planet Earth pioneered new photographic time- manipulation techniques
Some of the numerous breathtaking scenes in the series were shot with pioneering time-manipulation techniques that leave the viewer awestruck. In addition to incredible never-before-imagined time-lapse footage of tropical storms filmed from the air, the series also used a flash strobe system of time-lapse photography thousands of meters under the surface of the ocean to capture events that otherwise move too slowly for us to fully appreciate, such as sea urchins slowly devouring forests of kelp or totally bizarre sea creatures consuming the carcass of a dead tuna.
Planet Earth got to visit unspoiled reaches of our planet.
More brutally, Planet Earth trained ultra-high speed cameras on great white sharks ambushing cape fur seals, and crocodiles thrashing on wildebeest -- predation at too quick a clip for their prey to react, never mind the human eye. Yet, the cameras slowed movement 40 times, enough to see with shocking, intimate detail this ghastly ordeal’s whole savage beauty.
4- Planet Earth filmed in a location untouched by man for decades
The remote island group of Kong Karls Land is in the Svalbard archipelago, in the Norwegian Arctic. As the home to a high concentration of polar bears, it is protected by a traffic ban that extends 1,640 feet offshore and another 1,640 feet in the airspace above it.
The BBC was granted special access to the islands in order to film the polar bear’s breeding grounds. Consequently, they became the first human presence on that island group in the last 25 years.
5- Planet Earth doesn’t have an overt environmental agenda
Al Gore’s doomsday call-to-arms, An Inconvenient Truth, is only the latest in a series of apocalyptic visions for the future of our planet if we fail to heed the warnings. This approach can stylistically be traced to the effective Greenpeace-pioneered tactic of media mind-bombs, drastic images and fatalistic rhetoric presented less like predictions and more like a press release, letting the viewer know what’s in store for them and their planet should they not take action now.
Planet Earth takes a different approach, permitting the planet to express herself in migration patterns, hunt strategies, mating rituals, and life cycles -- in her own undistorted, unembellished terms, free of all policy and politics. According to producer Alastair Fothergill, “The function of Planet Earth is to raise people’s awareness and to show them things that are still out there which are still unspoiled.”
Environmental concerns and conservation issues were wisely omitted from the original series, and instead made the subject of the three-part supplement, Planet Earth: The Future.
The popularity of Planet Earth is without question, but differing DVD releases from the BBC and Discovery Channel may be causing some confusion. The BBC’s is the superior one, featuring esteemed writer and narrator David Attenborough, while the Discovery Channel not only made a few edits, they also inexplicably tapped Sigourney Weaver to narrate.
Our assessments of the length of public interest are never scientific, so what may be easier to assess here is the relative shelf life of Planet Earth. How long will it remain the definitive look at the planet’s diversity before an even more ambitious look comes along?
Outdoing the technical miracles won’t be the hard part. Rather, Planet Earth has a way of arresting our own natural inclination to take sides, chiefly because it doesn’t. No iniquity for predator and no sympathy for prey. The viewer is left to try to understand something as incomprehensibly profound as an amoral natural world.
That is definitive, and it can’t be outdone.
Article Suggested By: George A., Dallas, TX
credit : askmen
First time watched this was on Oprah's Show, REALLY GREAT DOCUMENTARY, standing applause for the crew ^^
Btw me n my bestfriend Melly REALLY LOVE this hehe