View Full Version : "Planet Earth" series

Brian Vuillemenot
30-Apr-2007, 21:57
Have any of you guys been watching the "Planet Earth" nature documentaries that they are showing on the Discovery Channel? If not, I highly recommend checking them out, as it's some serious eye candy for nature lovers and landscape afficionados. It's the most ambitious nature documentary series ever shot, with 40 cameramen, 2,000 days of filming over 5 years, costing $25 million, all shot in high definintion at numerous remote locations around the globe. It's organized by ecosystem, and two of my favorites so far have been "Deserts" and "Caves". Some of the footage is just incredible- a pack of lions taking down a full grown elephant, a panda nursing it's cub, a snow lion catching it's prey in a Himalayan blizzard, 3 million bats emerging from a cave in Borneo, a horde of 3 billion locusts, blind cave salamanders- the list goes on. If you're looking for some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, I highly recommend this series.

Eric James
30-Apr-2007, 22:22
In the not-to-distance future I understand that we will see a familiar face in an episode, with his 5X7 Canham:)

I geologist friend of mine was shooting with them up here about 2 weeks ago - I really need to get cable!

30-Apr-2007, 23:05
Recorded every episode in HD so far. Unbelievable. My favorite remains the great white shark jumping clear out of the water to catch a seal - caught in slow motion 60fps HD.

Slo-Mo Mostly shot in cameras meant for car crash / test dummies analysis, BTW.


paul stimac
30-Apr-2007, 23:38
I just want to know how they got the aerial shots of the animals without scaring them. They continue to hunt while, Iím assuming, a helicopter is flying over head. Did they fly really high with long (stable) lenses? Or has someone come up with a quiet helicopter? When ever I fly over animals close enough to take picture of them, it scares the $hit out of them.

Mick Fagan
1-May-2007, 00:34
We have had that series on free to air. The overhead shots were often done at approximately 3,250' to 3,750' (1,000m) or a bit higher.

The local newspapers carried some information about how the computerisation of the gyro stabilisers was the breakthrough regarding the use of lenses around 1200mm on 35mm film cameras. Whilst camera lenses can and do have stability inbuilt, the onboard computer(s) were the breakthough. At least that is what I understood from the articles.

Yes it is a brilliant series.


Eirik Berger
1-May-2007, 05:19
Yes, the series are great.

The overhead scenes of a polarbear swimming in the water were made from helicopter with gyro-stabilazed cameras with long lenses. That made them able to make close up images from high altitude and did not disturb the animal. I saw the helicopter/camera on the airport here in Longyearbyen before they went out filming. Impressive stuff.

That reminds me of one tour guide that saw my 480mm APO Ronar in my bag. "Thats a great focal length for polar bears" he said. Well, maybe 480mm on a camera with 1,X crop factor or whateverwill work. But mounted on a 8x10" camera makes it hazardous.

1-May-2007, 08:43
Caves and Deserts are my favourites too. The whole series looks simply stunning in HD and if there ever was a rational reason to get HD, this series is worth every penny of it.

Jim Chinn
1-May-2007, 10:32
As a sort of addendum to the series they have been airing a special this week about how they captured some of that amazing footage.

Dave Parker
1-May-2007, 11:10
I think it is a great series, I have met a few of the people who did the photography up here in Glacier as well as around Cooke City, MT, the guys that did the footage up this was where I live, were using high end video cameras with gyro stabilizing systems quite an interesting set up, I have seen them before, but never had the opportunity to see one close up in actual use until about a year ago, when a friend of mine did some still photography from a helo over a high end housing project just north of Yellowstone, amazing piece of equipment, but again, the series is great in my opinion


Sylvester Graham
1-May-2007, 18:34
Just clarifying,
There is a common misconception that if something is in "HD" it was shot with a digital HD camera, which is often not the case, footage is instead shot on film and digitized and broadcast in HD.

Planet Earth just looks too darn good to be shot on video!

Sylvester Graham
1-May-2007, 18:36
Although on second thought, they could have used both 35mm, and HD cameras, since there are two eyewitness accounts in this very thread of both formats.

Does anyone know for sure?

(my guess is still on film)

C. D. Keth
1-May-2007, 21:30
Does anyone know for sure?

I do.:)

It's mixed as far as capture media. Many parts were shot on 35mm film, especially when they were in humid climates, which HD video does not handle well. Some, notably the penguins in the antarctic were on super 16mm film (the camera was an Aaton).

The breaching shark was shot with a custom modified 1000 (not 60) FPS video camera normally used for crash-testing vehicles. They hard wired it to a laptop with a 3 second buffer so that the record button could be pressed after a promising moment and it would capture what just happened. It saved them hard disc space.

Most of the series was shot with a panasonic varicam, one of a couple leading HD video cameras. Much of the night footage that wasn't lit was shot with infrared lights and with the infrared filter in the camera removed. Video (as well as digital still camera) sensors are very IR sensitive but it is usually filtered down to the visible spectrum.

The aerial footage was done from fairly high up with a nose-mounted remote head camera used on feature films. They are gyro stabilized and can be used with lenses up to a etty long telephoto without showing shake from the helicopter. They can use lenses longer than that threshold and stabilise the footage in post, too.

1-May-2007, 22:30
>>The breaching shark was shot with a custom modified 1000 (not 60) FPS video camera >>normally used for crash-testing vehicles. They hard

Even more amazing !

Sylvester Graham
3-May-2007, 16:06
Christopher, you're either a planet earth super fan... or you have inside information. That suspicious smiley makes me think the latter.

C. D. Keth
4-May-2007, 12:52
Two reasons: I'm a film camera assistant and can see the equipment they showed on the "making of" show and instantly know quite a lot about it. Also, I have spoken to a couple of the cameramen who worked on it.