For years different television stations have sought after a show which could incorporate different elements of the world into one program. Stations usually used angles such as the television host who travels the world and visits such rich cultural environments, the quiet animal aficionado who exposes viewers to the diversity of natural habitats, or the crazy outdoorsman who teaches the basic skills in order to survive in the wild, yet the portrayal of the typical nature and discovery show changed with the high-definition production of the BBC series Planet Earth.  The incredible documentary was the most expensive ever made by the BBC and was also the very first filmed with HD visual quality.

16 million British pounds were budgeted for the documentary which began production in 2002 and finished in 2006.  In order to achieve all of the diverse footage for the project 71 cameramen and women filmed in 204 different locations and in 62 countries all over the globe.  Despite the intense planning and varied filming locations, the project itself turned out to be an enormous success in captivating audiences with a visual clarity of the nature world in a way never seen before.  In fact, the decision to film in high definition was considered to be a big risk because producers feared that the new technology was still relatively unreliable. However, the new HD cameras proved to be better than the traditional film camera because they provided high sensitivity to shoot in places of little or no light, and the different type of film stocks used for the HD camera equipment offered more space for batteries. Many of the images were therefore taken over a longer period of time to be able to capture different unique animal behaviors.  

Once the Planet Earth documentary reached the American public in 2007, audiences began to see images of Great White sharks jumping out of the water, lions chasing down elephants on the African plains, ants carrying leaves twice their size through the Amazon River Basin and polar bears enduring the frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean on their new HD televisions. The Planet Earth craze had begun. The documentary series showed the forefront of the effects of the natural world and it also helped to popularize the advancement of high definition technology. As a result the vivid natural imagery provided as a transport for viewers of all age ranges to escape their calm, civilized world and enter the wild, life and death environment of the animal world.  

The documentary might have changed the forefront of the new world of high definition through their risk-taking filming equipment. Still in its early stages, the use of high definition cameras before Planet Earth was mainly only used for the production of other non-documentary films, and in filming sports. A historical achievement in documentary filmmaking, it will be interesting to see where the next frontier of film technology will go, hopefully many of the earth’s natural marvels will continue to play the acting part.

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