Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Mangoes & Mayhem in Bangalore

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Mango sellers cry out on dusty street corners, echoing the same calls that greeted the imperialist British over 100 years ago - their legacy is lived by the armies of children playing cricket amidst the crashing noise of 21st century development. Colonial buildings now crumble, glass and steel palaces rise - a homage to the IT industry and the new empire of Indian call centers. This is Bangalore, or Bengaluru as it is now known. A city rich with the sounds of technology amidst a cocophany of honking horns. Chaos for the foreign traveller. Autorickshaws weave and dodge as cows casually roam, stray dogs sleep lazily by the roadside. Entire families precariously balance on the back of chuttering motor bikes. The roads seem lawless - no lanes, no traffic lights, no warnings. Just wit and a sense of survival to see you through the next junction and to that juicy mango, a reward for your perilous journey.

Posted by ShoZu

Monday, 22 June 2009

PHOTOGRAPHY: Filming on Yap, Micronesia

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From www.ironammonite.com

Filming for the BBC Science series 'How Earth made us' coming to BBC2 in 2010.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

PHOTOGRAPHY: Filming on Yap, Micronesia

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Filming for the BBC Science series 'How Earth made us' coming to BBC2 in 2010.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

PHOTOGRAPHY: Prague Photoblitz

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For more than 1000 years Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe. It was also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors in the 14th century, and so, for a while it was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It became the capital of Czechoslovakia after World War I and in 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic. 

Created with flickr slideshow.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

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Click here to watch the exceptional movie 'Home' by The GoodPlanet Foundation & Yann Arthus-Bertrand of 'Earth from above' fame.

'We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate. The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being. For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. A patron, the PPR Group, made this possible. EuropaCorp, the distributor, also pledged not to make any profit because Home is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you : share it! And act for the planet.'

Foundations and Idea behind Home
By Paula Alvarado, Buenos Aires, for Treehugger.com

Although famous for its Earth from Above pictures, this is the first movie by French photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand. He got the idea of making it moved by the impact Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth had since its release.

"When I invited Al Gore to show his film, An Inconvenient Truth, to the French Parliament, I realized just how much impact a movie could have, even more than a TV program. I saw how moved the audience was—to tears in some cases—and I said to myself that a feature film was an excellent way of reaching people," he said in an interview at the press release brochure.

A Movie from Above

Following his tradition of aerial photography, Arthus Bertrand set off to make a movie entirely shot from above. Why is a movie from above necessary? Producer Denis Carot explains in the same release: "I was convinced that the idea of shooting a movie entirely from up in the sky, without interviews or archive footage, was the right one, but I couldn't pinpoint why. One conversation enlightened me: 'From the sky, there's less need for explanations.' Absolutely! One's vision is more immediate, intuitive and emotional. That's what sets Home apart from all the other movies on the environment—which are all equally necessary in this crucial period for humanity. Home impacts directly on the sensibility of anyone who sees it, bringing us to awareness, through emotion initially, in order to change the way we see the world."

The emissions for the making of the movie were of course offset, by financing a project for Diffusion of anaerobic digesters in India (through Action Carbone)

Numbers and details of the project

Apart from a documentary, Home is an ambitious project: from day one, it was thought to be released free and worldwide to reach as many people as possible.

To make this possible, the film was sponsored by PPR Group, and also received support from other initiatives, such as the special products designed by high-end brands from the Gucci Group. It took 217 days of shooting in 54 countries, which added up to 488 hours of footage.

Additionally, the movie has an original music score written by Armand Amar and recorded with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Percussion Ensemble.

Read more at Treehugger.com

The film was simultaneously shown around the world on World Environmental Day 2009.

10 steps to becoming a Covert Google Earth Surfer

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If you are a Natural History film-maker than you will no doubt find Google Earth invaluable. Unfortunately some organizations seem to have put a block on this crucial piece of software - even years after it was first released! As a result they have limited, if not reduced, the 'productivity' of their staff. Here is a guide to Covert Google Earth surfing... use this at your own peril!

1. Visit the Google Earth website and download the 'Google Earth.exe' installation file. You'll need to save this to your computers non-networked drive it might be called the 'D' Drive.

2. The first step in covert Google Earth use is to rename the downloaded file 'Google Earth.exe' to 'decoy.exe'. High-tech I.T.bots sweep through your computer for anything named "Google Earth" and then deploy their digital missiles to obliterate them from your system.
So to avoid this and to prevent a .exe from being an ex .exe - rename 'Google Earth.exe' to 'Decoy.exe'

3. Next - the point of no return - launch the installation of Google Earth by double clicking on 'Decoy.exe'

4. Go to C/ Documents and Setting/ Your Username/ Application Data/ Google/ Google Earth/ and once again change the 'Google Earth.exe' in this folder to 'Decoy2'.

If you've gotton this far without being shot by the I.T.erminators then well done.

5. Under the cover of darkness, right click on 'Decoy2.exe" and select 'send to desktop (shortcut)'.

6. Go to desktop, and while simultaneously looking over your shoulder, right click on the shortcut of "Decoy2" and select properties.

7. In the window that pops up click on "change icon" - try to withhold your excitement - any hint of this may alert the I.T. Bots.

8. Another window will pop up. browse for another icon, or paste this: C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe into the browse box to give you access to a selection of carefully trained decept-icons.

9. Select an alternative icon from this platoon. My favourite decept-icon is the earth icon - very experienced in the field of covert Google Earth access.

10. You should now be ready for a life of secret Earth surfing.

The Earth is in your hands - enjoy, I hope it helps with planning your shoot.

- Matt the Mysterious

James May on the Moon

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James May on the Moon
Sunday 21st June BBC2, 21:00

As part of a season of programming on BBC Two and BBC Four to celebrate 40 years since the first moon landing, James May takes a "giant leap" into space history to discover the stories of the heroes behind this auspicious historical event.

In James May On The Moon, the BBC's Top Gear presenter learns to use an astronaut's space suit as he trains for three days with the United States Air Force before travelling to the edge of space in a U2 spy plane. At 70,000 feet, James looks up into the blackness of space and down at the thin blue atmosphere beneath him, an experience that he says "changed his life".

It may only be a small leap into space for James, but it helps him to understand the achievements of the Apollo astronauts. Along the way he meets some of the men who went to the moon, experiences zero gravity and endures the force of a Saturn V rocket launch in a centrifuge.

Watch the preview on You Tube here

For further details please visit the programme page.

James May at the Edge of Space
Sunday 21st June BBC4, 22:00
James May always wanted to be an astronaut. Now, 40 years after the first Apollo landings, he gets a chance to fly to the edge of space in a U2 spy plane. But first he will have to undergo three gruelling days of training with the US Air Force and learn to use a space suit to stay alive in air so thin it can kill in an instant. He discovers that during the flight there are only two people higher than him, and they are both real astronauts on the International Space Station.

For further details please visit the programme page.

Directed and Produced by Paul King
Executive Producers – Aidan Laverty and Phil Dolling
Researcher – Will Ellerby
Film Editor – Bill Coates
Photography – Tim Cragg
Sound - Adam Prescod
Production Manager – Rebecca Maidens

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Fragile Paradise

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Sun 14 Jun 2009, 20:00, BBC2

Documentary series. The South Pacific is still relatively healthy and teeming with fish, but it is a fragile paradise. International fishing fleets are taking a serious toll on the sharks, albatross and tuna, and there are other insidious threats to these bountiful seas. This episode looks at what is being done to preserve the ocean and its wildlife.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Incredible Human Journey: The Americas

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Sunday 14 June, 9pm BBC2

Dr Alice Roberts travels the globe to discover the incredible story of how humans left Africa to colonise the world - overcoming hostile terrain, extreme weather and other species of human. She pieces together precious fragments of bone, stone and new DNA evidence and discovers how this incredible journey changed our African ancestors into the people we are today.

This week, for Stone Age people, reaching North & South America seems impossible: On each side, vast oceans and to the north, an impenetrable ice sheet that covered the whole of Canada. So how did the first Americans get there?

Alice discovers evidence for an ancient corridor through the Canadian ice sheet that may have allowed those first people through. But there are problems - in particular some very ancient finds in southern Chile seem to suggest a very different way in to the Americas. Amazingly, an ancient human skull discovered in Brazil even points to an Australasian origin of the Americans. Could a route from Australia across the Pacific have been possible? A surprising answer to the problem eventually comes from a Canadian forensic scientist, more used to solving murder cases.

Photron SA-2, Phantom, Shimadzu & friends: The fastest cameras in the world

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I was playing around with the new high speed Photron SA2 camera (left) at the weekend (the Photron SA-1 was used on Life in Cold Blood to film Chameleon tongues, and Planet Earth to film Great Whites hunting).

The image looked even brighter and sharper than the images I have seen from the Phantom camera (the BBC's high speed flavour of the month) but I could have just been dazzled by the pomp surrounding it.

One thing to note is that there is a 2-stop difference between this and the Phantom HD - so its much more light sensitive (but then I haven't mentioned the Phantom v640 yet). I have been informed that the SA2 has a viewfinder at last and can be run off V-lok batteries but you still need a laptop and a seperate recorder - so it' s still not really as practical for field use as the Phantoms or the smaller Memrecams.

Set-up of the SA-2 as used by cameraman Gavin Thurston to film bears last year.
Image Copyright: Gavin Thurston.

The Photron SA-2 can film at 2,000 fps at Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1080 pixels) while the equivalent camera from Phantom the Phantom v640 records over 2700fps at1920x1080 HD-resolution (The Phantom HD 'only' does 1000fps at 1920 × 1080 or 2K resolution).

You might also want to check out the really compact MotionPro Y5 and the MotionScope N5 9 by Lake image systems both capable of up to 1500 frames per second at a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, Memrecam GX-1 records 2000fps at 1280x1024.

The Fastest camera in the world

Now if you don't care whether its HD or not but you want to film really, really, fast then the fastest camera in the world is the Shimadzu. At a resolution of 312 x 260 it is capable at a pant-wettingly high speed of 1,000,000 fps.

Unfortunately the Shimadzu only records in black and white and so for the very best full colour and high speed/resolution combination you have to drop right down to 300,000 fps for the Photron Fastcam SA5 (256 x 54 pixels) the Phantom V640, mentioned earlier, also records at up to 300,000fps but at a tiny resolution of 128x8.

The Red Cam ups its game

Oh yes, and while I'm on one... if your a fan of the current 'RED One' camera which goes upto120fps at 2k then the first Red EPIC camera (actually Epic is a module which is the brain of the camera) will be released in the Autumn (the S35) and is capable of up to 250fps at 2k. But the big whopper - the Full Format 'Monstro EPIC' comes out this winter which will record at 350fps at 2k - not quite a million frames a second but quite a high speed for such a mega resolution.

If you have has any experience filming with high speed cameras we would love to hear about your experiences. Thanks Matt.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Networks of Nature - stories of natural history film-making from the BBC.

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Networks of nature: stories of natural history film-making from the BBC.
A great read for anyone interested in the BBC Natural History Unit and a must for all aspiring BBC NHU researchers...

In May 1953 the first natural history television programme was broadcast from Bristol by naturalist Peter Scott and radio producer Desmond Hawkins. By 1997 the BBC's Natural History Unit has established a global reputation for wildlife films, providing a keystone of the BBC's public service broadcasting charter, playing an important strategic role in television scheduling and occupying a prominent position in a competitive world film market.

The BBC's blue-chip natural history programmes regularly bring images of wildlife from all over the globe to British audiences of over 10 million.

In her PhD thesis Gail Davies traces the changing world of the BBC natural history unit. Using archive material, interviews and through close observation of the film-makers at work she explores the ever changing relationships between broadcasting values and scientific and film-making practices.

This research puts the BBCs popular representations of wildlife within the context of post-war British attitudes to nature and explores the importance of technology, animals and public conceptions as additional factors influencing the relationships between nature and culture.

University College London PhD Eprints

Cataloguing Life On Earth: An Inside Look at ARKive, Part 2

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Still Images

One of the most common situations in which a member of the public will be engaged head on by wildlife photography is in a gallery. It’s one of the few places that people will go, at little or no cost, with the intention of spending time contemplating the merits of each work. Many will unexpectedly leave with a new appreciation of the natural world.

A Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition is one such example, annually touring the globe inspiring thousands. For the people who visit, it may well change their perception of the living organisms with which we share this planet.

Experiences like these personify the role of wildlife photography in promoting conservation issues. It can invoke the will for action. Museums and galleries around the world are a fantastic place to display such imagery, but they are limited to what they can fit inside their walls and by how long it is on display. There is a vast amount of wildlife imagery which is never seen.

Collections of wildlife photography are spread out. Even for those species where it is easy to look up imagery for yourself, some of the most unique photographs may be hidden away. This is where ARKive steps in, aiming to create a safe, centralised digital library of wildlife imagery accessible to anybody.

The aim of these articles is to shed light on the way ARKive works. Last time, I looked at moving imagery and gave a brief introduction to some of the other key aspects of ARKive. Footage is an invaluable part of the database, but it’s only half the story.

An ARKive Media Researcher hard at work
To obtain the still images that will represent each species, ARKive goes to many of the biggest libraries in the natural history sector of stock photography. Photographers represented by agencies such as Nature Picture Library, OSF, Animals Animals, Ardea, Biosphoto, FLPA and NHPA all generously contribute their work to the project, to name but a few.

However, stock agencies certainly are not the limit of the source material. Indeed, independent donors are as much a part of the project as any of the biggest commercial libraries. ARKive proudly displays the work of over 2500 media donors, ranging from Sir David Attenborough himself to keen birders, herpers, academics or just about any naturalist with a passion for taking pictures.

So, if it’s not part of a stock library, then Google really is your friend. Even for a particularly tricky species, there’s often a keen enthusiast with a host of images waiting to be tracked down. Case in point, cycads have a surprisingly massive underground following. Communities such as these are full of lively, passionate individuals who are more often than not willing to do their bit for ARKive.

For the most part, licensing issues are a relatively straightforward process. The copyright for every image stays with the owner. The imagery can only be used for display on the website - where the public may download it freely for private or educational purposes, and stored in ARKive's offline media vault. Of course, that’s a tad simplified, but the licence agreement that is presented to donors is, effectively, an incredibly elongated version of those two sentences (and doesn’t make for great blogging).

Once again, the aim is to create a comprehensive representation of each species’ life history. So as not to over-saturate each gallery, a highly selective approach needs to be taken. For a species which has rarely been seen yet alone photographed, it’s easy - just take what you can get. Things become somewhat more difficult when the subject looks pretty and stands still.

Keeping in mind the archival aims of ARKive, the highest resolution copies are always requested. In this day and age, that constitutes a lot of digital files. Original RAW files contain the most data, and so are preferred. A photographer will usually send this in alongside a processed file which is presented to the world on the website, whilst the RAW file goes safely into the vault.

Sylvia Earle is a vital part of the selection process!
Of course, transparencies form a gigantic part of the photographic records that exist of the natural world. Slides from donors and libraries are used where available. ARKive sends them to an outsourced scanning agency for digitisation at very high resolution. During the process, transparencies are meticulously damage checked several times and at the end, are sent back to their respective donors along with a disc containing the digital copies.

Metadata is recorded in a similar system to that which deals with footage. Once images have been captioned, they are ready to be published on the website. All of the images are credited to the photographer with optional contact details, which has the added benefit of acting as an incentive for donors, whereby ARKive becomes a showcase for their work.

ARKive recently hit a big milestone, reaching over 30,000 images representing more then 4,000 species. In a sense, ARKive is a museum (in a somewhat more digital format). There is certainly a case to say that wildlife imagery has a purpose which supersedes value. Keeping it hidden away or hard to access, would be a terrible shame (I think Indy would be proud).

I had mentioned I would detail some work about species texts, but it seemed a shame to try and squeeze it in here. I’ll take a brief look at that in another instalment.

Rob Morgan
Photos: Ben Roberts

Monday, 8 June 2009

Mike Gunton and Chris Cole to lead BBC Natural History

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Neil Nightingale is due to stand down as Head of the BBC Natural History Unit on June 26th and while the NHU search for a new leader, the BBCs controller of Factual Tom Archer has announced that he is appointing Mike Gunton (left) and Chris Cole as Joint Acting Heads.

"Mike and Chris have great complimentary skills and have of course worked very effectively together running development." Says Archer

"Together they can make sure we nail the outstanding deals we are pursuing, continue the push for new commissions and new ideas, and establish the NHU's relationship with the new commissioner Kim Shillinglaw"

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

SoundsSnap Sound Archive

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From BBC Click
If you are a music producer and are looking for some interesting new sounds to use in your work, then soundsnap.com will be a goldmine for you.

We love free stuff, especially if it helps us become a little more creative, and here you can download all sorts of sounds for use in music, video and audio productions.

It even has some funky sound effects for your website or presentation.

Once you have registered and confirmed your address, you can start downloading or uploading samples straight away.

Use the buttons on the opening page to jump to the categories. There are animal noises, comic sound effects and classic musical samples such as drum loops and much more.

These sounds are royalty free to use worldwide. But make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully before uploading anything to the site.

From BBC Click