Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Gordon Buchanan & Lily the Black Bear: The Bear Family and Me

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BBC2 January 2011

 Wildlife Cameraman Gordon Buchanan experiences life with black bears Photo: BBC

Under the guidance of 'Bear Walker' Lynn Rogers (the star of Bear Walker of the Northwoods), Curly haired Scottish cameraman, Gordon Buchanan, is able to gain the trust of Lily, the black bear, and spends a year living alongside her and her new-born cub, Hope, in the wild woods of Minnesota. As he follows every twist and turn of the bears' lives, Gordon is able to document the struggle Lily faces as she tries to raise and protect Hope. In the final episode Gordon's role changes from cameraman to bodyguard as he walks with the bears to try to keep them safe. Will Hope and her mother Lily survive hunting season to den safely for the winter? What follows could change the way we think about bears forever.

Gordon Buchanan (who you may have seen presenting on the expedition series as well as Springwatch & Autumnwatch) is one of the most talented and hard working wildlife cameraman you'll ever wish to meet. With a warm sense of humour, a craving for adventure and an insatiable ability to bellow out a tune, he never fails to cheer up a gloomy day. I'm sure 'The Bear Family & Me' is going to be an entertaining, insightful and emotional journey - the first series he has fronted.

You can follow Lily the Black Bear on Facebook

Bear Hijacks Gordons Camera

Cute Cub stuck up a Tree 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Brian Cox & Dara O Briain are Starstruck: Starlight Camera debuts on Stargazing Live

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BBC Two, 3rd, 4th & 5th January, 2011

Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain bring the wonders of the night sky to BBC2. Stargazing LIVE reveals stunning images from Earth’s most powerful telescopes - and beyond - during three nights of extraordinary astronomical events. Brian will act as guide, using his infectious enthusiasm for science and his trademark demonstrations to take Dara and the audience on a whistle stop tour of our galaxy, teaching them the basics of how to identify, image and photograph the wonders they see above them.

Mark Thompson, the resident astronomer on the The One Show will join Brian and Dara at Jodrell Bank, whilst Bang Goes The Theory’s Liz Bonnin will report live every day from Hawaii. Together the team will showcase the three biggest astronomical events of the year as Jupiter aligns with Uranus, the sun is partially eclipsed by the moon and meteors rain down across the country.

Prof Brian Cox & Dara O Briain (Photo: BBC)

HD Filming in Lowlight, Moonlight & Starlight

If you're a Wildlife filmmaker you may also be interested to know that Stargazing Live is also the debut of the Lunax Starlight HD Camera. This revolutionary piece of kit has been developed in Bristol by kit design company, TShed and award-winning wildlife film-makers Justine Evans, Ted Giffords & Nick Turner. Not only is the picture quality superb, the kit is so easy to use it is bringing no/low light shooting within every film-maker's reach.

Read more about the Starlight camera
"Inspired by Martin Dohrn's innovative use of image intensifying technology our High Definition image intensifying camera is the first starlight camera in the world to feature both HD resolution and an HD-SDI output in one package. Footage in moonlight and starlight can now be captured at unsurpassed resolution on the move thanks to our camera operator friendly design..."

David Attenborough flies with the Pterosaurs: Flying Monsters 3D

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Flying Monsters 3D with David Attenborough, Christmas Day 6pm, Sky 3D.

Sir David Attenborough flies with the Pterosaurs, Photo: Atlantic Productions

220 million years ago dinosaurs were beginning their domination of Earth. But another group of reptiles was about to make an extraordinary leap: pterosaurs were taking control of the skies. The story of how and why these mysterious creatures took to the air is more fantastical than any fiction.

In Flying Monsters 3D, Sir David Attenborough the world’s leading naturalist, sets out to uncover the truth about the enigmatic pterosaurs, whose wingspans of up to 40 feet were equal to that of a modern day jet plane.

The central question and one of the greatest mysteries in palaeontology is: how and why did pterosaurs fly? How did creatures the size of giraffes defy gravity and soar through prehistoric skies?

Driven by the information he finds as he attempts to answer these questions, Attenborough starts to unravel one of science’s more enduring mysteries, discovering that the marvel of pterosaur flight has evolutionary echoes that resonate even today.

Flying Monsters 3D is a groundbreaking film that uses cutting-edge 3D technology and CGI to bring the story of giant flying monsters and their prehistoric world to life. Audiences of all ages will be in awe as they enter the world and experience, as never before, REAL Flying Monsters – in 3D.

Find out more about this landmark production, and some of the prehistoric stars of the show.

Flying Monsters from Atlantic Productions on Vimeo.

Sir David Attenborough: Why 3D won't quite take off

"When I started in 1952, people had television sets and thought it was a miracle. You sat in front of it and waited for it to start and watched all the way through to the end and it was an event. But within a decade, you ate and talked and knitted while it was on," said Sir David, 84.

"Then colour came about and once again it was an event, people would come round and said, 'Wow, look at the colour'. Then we got accustomed to colour and television became like wallpaper.  I don't think 3D can be used as wallpaper, particularly because you need the glasses and when you put them on it's very isolating. You become very unaware of the person next to you."

"I think 3D TV is going to be event TV. It can be an international football match or it can also be an important programme. But I don't think 3D is going to be much good on trivia. It's for programmes that really mean something. It does require your attention."
Excerpts from an Interview by the Telegraph

Photo: Atlantic Productions

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Green Screen movie extravaganza & how to film a growing woodland

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I knew Green Screen was fab but I never realised just how much it was used in the movies. I guess it's a lot cheaper and easier than shutting down streets, organising permits and flying actors and crews to remote locations. I knocked together my own budget Green Screen for a festival and here's a quick guide.

Time Warp in Natural History

Green screen is very rarely used in Natural History film making but it was used tremendously in combination with time-lapse photography to create a much acclaimed scene for the BBC series Life. The 'making of' from the Plants episode revealed the skill and effort behind creating one of natural history's most ambitious sequences. To create a scene of a growing English woodland. The back plates were filmed at the mysterious Wistmans Wood in the middle of Dartmoor.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Decade of Discovery with Chris Packham

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BBC2, Tuesday 14th Dec, 8pm

A rare pygmy sloth that looks like a teddy bear and can swim, an insect as long as your arm and a fish from the deep with a face like a headlight. Just some of the extraordinary and weird new species chosen by presenter Chris Packham as his top ten discoveries of the last decade from around the world.

Also chosen are a giant orchid worth thousands, a walking shark and a small mammal related to an elephant with a nose to match, and two geckos which are evolving before our eyes. Equally extraordinary are the personal stories of how the new species were found, as told by the 21st century scientists and explorers who discovered them - the Indiana Joneses of the natural world. All these species are new to us and new to science, and proof that the Earth can still surprise us.

 Headlight Fish

With a head like a fighter-plane cockpit, a Pacific barreleye fish shows off its highly sensitive, barrel-like eyes - topped by green, orblike lenses. The fish, discovered alive in the deep water off California's central coast by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is the first specimen of its kind to be found with its soft transparent dome intact.

Swimming Sloth

One of the rarest mammals on the planet the pygmy three-toed sloth goes for a swim in the waters around Isla Escudo des Veraguas, a tiny island off the coast of Panama. This fantastically charismatic animal that looks like a teddy bear was described as a new species in 2001.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Watch Prehistoric moments on BBC Wildlife Finder

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The fabulous folks behind the BBC Wildlife Finder have launched the much anticipated 'Prehistoric Life' section of the site. Now you can watch some of the BBC's top Prehistoric moments from series such as 'First Life' by David Attenborough and 'Bill Oddie's Killer Dinosaurs'. Find out about the 5 Big mass extinctions or the top 10 Dinosaurs... or just marvel at how CGI recreations have evolved over the past 30 years.


The first thing I did was head for the ammonites and I found this clip from 'Journey of Life' a series I worked on back in 2002. We filmed on my favourite beach in the world - Pinhay Bay, West of Lyme Regis. When the tide is out, a magnificent array of ammonite fossils is exposed.

Natural World: Butterflies - a very British obsession

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17th December, 8pm, BBC2
From one of Britain's top wildlife cameramen - Mark Payne-Gill and producer Simon Bell, this promises to be a fascinating look into the most resplendent of Britain's insects - the Butterflies. (I can vouch for Marks obsession with these enchanting creatures, whilst filming 'Animals Guide to Britain' he would often leap a fence or dive into a quagmire in pursuit of a mere glimpse of a rare butterfly that he had sighted from the corner of his eyes!)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Prof Brian Cox RTS Lecture: The best TV is relevant, educational, powerful & moving

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If you work in TV then this is particularly worth watching...

Professor Brian Cox (of Wonders of the Solar System fame) uses this year's RTS Lecture to grapple with the main challenges in bringing science to television. He tackles the risks in simplifying science for a television audience and the importance of making science on television intellectually and emotionally engaging. He also has an interesting discussion about the perils of abandoning fact in the name of balance.

He concludes that the best TV is  relevant, educational, powerful and profoundly moving.

How do we simplify without patronising?

Is there a place on TV for heavy-weight, pure science documentaries?


Watch more clips here

Lambing Live: Kate's Year with the Beavans

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Sunday 5th December, BBC2 5.30pm.

Just when you thought you'd seen all the lambs you could bare... Kate is back on the Beavan farm to see how things are getting on with this years arrivals.

In the spring of 2009, Kate Humble and Adam Henson joined the Beavan family on their sheep farm in South Wales for the biggest and busiest event in the farming calendar - lambing.

Nearly 200 lambs were born over just five days, everyday life and death drama played out on live television. For the Beavans this was their livelihood, for Kate it was the apprenticeship of a lifetime. This 60 minute special looks back at her journey through the sheep farming year, from learning how to select a 'tup' or ram, to delivering her very first lamb. It's a journey that doesn't stop in spring. Come summer it's time for shearing and Kate returns to the farm to learn her way around a fleece. There's also a chance to catch up with Humble the lamb, plus the farming year comes full circle. By the end of August, it's market day, and Kate joins the Beavans at auction to see if all their hard work has paid off.

Read more about 'Lambing Live', the series shown earlier in the year

Kate finds her ideal Ram

Clip from the series shown earlier in the year

(Photo: BBC)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Take a Gander at a Panda! Natural World: Panda Makers

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BBC Two, 8pm, Tues December 7th
Giant Pandas were on the brink of extinction but now they are coming back, thanks to an extraordinary conservation project. The Chengdu Research Base in central China is at the heart of a project to breed 300 pandas, and then start introducing them back into the wild. It is the most ambitious and controversial conservation effort ever mounted. Shot over two years, this film follows the pandas and keepers as, through visionary science and round-the-clock care, they edge closer to the magic number of 300. 

Gander at a Panda! 

Here's a few preview clips from the film showing Baby pandas in the play cot at the Chengdu breeding centre in China. These are some of the 300 babies that will be part of a large-scale reintroduction programme of the Giant Panda back into the wild.

No idea where this fantastic music is from but it surely has one of the greatest lines.

I Get Knocked Down...

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A spot of tech helps people rise in the midst of a polar winter

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I'm lucky to have spent some time on the arctic Island of Svalbard (my posts from Svalbard),  and have stayed at the 'roughty toughty' town of Longyearbyen, one of the worlds most northerly settlements. I was there in the summer and the biggest problem I faced was getting to sleep under canvass in a place where the sun never sets - and the ice cold wind never stops howling. But there is another side to the frozen coin that I am yet to experience - 24 hour darkness. I can only imagine how that must effect the human psyche.

You know that painful feeling you get when you leave the house for work on dark winters morning, its 6am, your breath is like ice and your car is all frosted up. Well I imagine its a bit like that, all day long, and every time you step outside - for 5 months!

Thankfully Philips are on the case to make polar winter mornings a little easier...

The Sun never sets: our summer camp on Svalbard 

Arctic Camping
(Photo: Paul Williams)

The Sun never Rises: Winter in Longyearbyen

The film below may be a promotional film advertising the Philips Wake-Up Light, but it is atmospheric and captivating, and provides a little glimpse into the lives of the everyday folk that live out in an extraordinary frontier town.

Visit the Wake-Up Light website to find out more about the people and place of Longyearbyen.

Wake-Up Light... there must be an iPhone app somewhere that does this!

Meanwhile we have the chance to make better use of our daylight

Lesey @EnglshFolkFan told me about 10:10 Lighter Later 

Unfortunately I'm a it pessimistic about how much great ideas like this actually get considered by the big wigs who run our world, nether-the-less it sounds like a brilliant idea...

"Everybody loves the sunshine. But every year we set our clocks so that we get less of it in our lives, sleeping through the sunlit mornings while we use expensive, polluting electric lights to keep out the dark nights. Lighter Later is a campaign to brighten all of our days, by changing the clocks so we are awake when the sun is out. The idea is simple: we shift the clocks forward by one hour throughout the entire year. We would still put the clocks forward in spring and back in autumn, but we would have moved an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, when more of us are awake to enjoy it. Lighter Later is also the best proof yet of 10:10’s bright idea – that cutting carbon and making life better can and should go hand in hand."

Sign the petition here:

A couple of benefits like I particularly like:
"Cut at least 447,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution – equivalent to more than 50,000 cars driving all the way around the world – each year."

"Make the nation happier – including reducing the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder"

"Help make people healthier and tackle obesity by giving people more time to exercise and play sport outside in the evening."

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Children in Need Audiovisual Quiz 2010

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Last night I hosted my annual Children in Need Pub Quiz in the BBC Bristol Club we had 30 teams and raised a fantastic £550 pounds. I've posted my full quiz here and would be more than happy if you would like to use this to run your own Charity Pub Quiz. The answers are at the bottom of the page. You can download answer sheets here
Enjoy - Paul.


Name these 10 films & 5 cartoons


a. Which decade was this released in?
b. and next line?

a. Name the Track
b. Name the Track
c. Name the Track

a. Name the band?
b. Next Line

a. Name the person singing in this original version of a classic song.

a. How many Caribbean islands do they mention in the section I’m about to play you

a. Name the comedian who had a chart hit in 1984 with this?

a. Name the Artist
b. Next Line

a. What year were most of these released in the UK?
b. Whats the odd one out?

a. Track in Reverse: Name the Group

Which film is this from?


1. In the nursery rhyme Mondays child is fair of face, Tuesdays child is full of grace, Wednesdays child is what?

2. Which company released `Pong` in 1972 the first ever video game released?

3. Where would you find the `Ocean Of Storms`?

4. What 2 creatures are on the Australian Coat of Arms? (1 point each)

5. how many drum beats can be heard at the end of each episode of eastenders?

6. Which producers signature appeared at the end of the Tom and Jerry cartoons ?

7. Who painted The Laughing Cavalier?

8. The currency of Costa Rica shares its name with which punctuation mark?

9. How many strings does a ‘Chello’ have?

10. How many stripes are there on an American flag?

ROUND 2: Cars & Drivers

1. According to the Highway Code, passengers of what age and above are responsible for themselves wearing a seatbelt?

2. Which famous car did Professor Caractacus Potts drive?

3. Which company brought out the Rover group in 1994?

4. Cars from which country have the letters CH on them?

5. Who manufactured a car called the silver ghost?

6. Which car shares its name with the Italian Island in the southern part of the Bay of Naples?

7. Which character did Lee Majors play in TVs Six Million-Dollar Man?

8. From which country does the Proton car originate?

9. What product was advertised using a race between a blue and red car?

10. What is the surname of Russia's first driver who appeared in the 2010 season?

ROUND 3: Cooking & Food

1. Which pasta sauce is believed to take its name from the Italian charcoal workers who often ate it?

2. What food flavouring is obtained from the crocus plant?

3. In October 1995, what became the first vegetable to be grown in space?

4. By law, Stilton cheese can only be made in which three counties?

5. Which drink is made from the Blue Agave plant?


1. What was the name of the plane Lindbergh flew on the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic?

2. In which country was The Queen when she heard that she had acceded to the throne?

3. The throne of which country has been occupied by the same family since the sixth century BC and has 125 successive monachs?

4. The Titanic had two sister ships. What were their names?

5. In which city did the grave robbers Burke and Hare operate?

6. Who was the last tudor monarch?

7. In Greek mythology, what was the name of the river which rendered Achilles invincible, apart apart from his heel, when his mother dipped him in it?

8. By what name was 617 squadron known during the Second World War?

9. The French Coastguard want a ban on people swimming the channel but who was the first man to swim the English channel?

10. When the first World War broke out which three countries made up the Triple Entente?

ROUND 6:  SCIENCE 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

1. What were the 5 Ancient Greek Classical Elements that were thought to make up everything?

2. What are the names of the 4 leg bones?

3. What are the 3 lightest elements?

4. What are the two closest stars to Earth?

5. What was the name of Yuri Gagarin`s space ship?


Name the Film: 1. Dirty Dancing (1987), 2. Back to the Future (1985), 3. Waynes World (1992), 4. Blazing Saddles (1974), 5. Bedazzled (2000), 6. Goonies (1985), 7. 2001 a space odyssey (1968), 8. Apocalypse Now (1978), 9. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), 10. Bruce Almighty (2003)

a. Jimbo, b. Powerpuff Girls, c. The Racoons (German intro) d. Johnny Bravo, e. Mysterious Cities of Gold

1. Dr Martha Jones, 2. Dr Otto Octavious (Dr Octopus) Spiderman, 3. Dr Hilary Jones, 4. The Doctor (emergency medical hologram), 5. Dr Nick Riviera. 6. Dr Gunther Von Hagens, 7. Dr Peter Venkman, 8. Dr Claw (inspector Gadget), 9. Dr Gonzo (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), 10. Dr john Michael Dorian - JD Scrubs, 11. Dr Doogie Howser, 12. Dr Doom (Iron Man) 13. Dr Raj Persuad, 14. Dr Chase Meridian, 15. Dr Ivo Eggman Robotnik (Sonic)


a. Next Line: Expert Timing
b. Artist: Carl Douglas

a. Voodoo Child – Jimmy Hendrix
b. Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
c. Sympathy for the Devil - Rollin Stone

a. Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild
b. Heavy Metal Thunder

Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffanys 1961

2 = Aruba, Jamaica
Montego is not an island – it’s a bay in Jamaica
Key Largo – is not part of the Carribbean – its part of the Florida Keys
Bermuda & Bahamas are not in the Carribbean

Russ Abbott

a. Barry Manilow
b. The hottest spot north of Havana

a. 2001 ( Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow, Escape – Enrique, Skaterboy – Avril Lavigne, Jenny from the block)
b. Odd one out Toxic by Britney Spears: 2004

a. Aqua

The Three Amigos

1. Full of woe, 2. Atari Inc, 3. On the moon, 4. Kangeroo & Emu, 5. 9, 6. Fred Quimby, 7. Frans Hals (1624), 8. Colon, 9. 4, 10. 13 (represent the original 13 colonies)

1. 14, 2. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 3. BMW, 4. Switzerland, 5. Rolls Royce, 6. Capri (Ford), 7. Steve Austin, 8. Malaysia, 9. Milky Way, 10. (Vitaly) Petrov
1. Carbonara, 2. Saffron, 3. The Potato, 4. Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, 5. Tequila

1. The Spirit Of St Louis, 2. Sagana Lodge, Kenya, 3. Japan, 4. Brittanic and Olympic, 5. Edinburgh, 6. Elizabeth I, 7. The Styx, 8. The Dambusters, 9. Matthew Webb (1875 – less than 22 hours), 10. England, France and Russia

1. Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Aether, 2. Femur, Patella, Tibia, Fibula, 3. Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, 4. Sun & Proxima Centauri, 5. Vostok 1

Friday, 5 November 2010

Birds Britannia - a curiously British wildlife series

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Watch Episode 2, Wednesday, 9pm on BBC4.

'Two out of three of us feed wild birds in our gardens... In a sense, this simple act of kindness to our fellow creatures is the entry point into a deeper relationship with wildlife as a whole.'
- Stephen Moss, Series Producer & Wildlife Guru Read Stephens Bird Blog.

Top twitcher Stephen Moss brings us Birds Britannia, a curiously British wildlife series which looks at the birdlife that we share our islands with, and explores what our relationship to them reveals about the British psyche. Top of our affections are garden birds, including the nation's favourite, the robin. For more information & clips visit the BBC programme page.

(Photo: Robin on a snowy table Paul Williams) 

As programme one reveals Bird Tables also give a helping hand to one of our most common urban raptors... Sparrowhawks

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Iain Stewart goes home for 'Making Scotland's Landscape'

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Programme 1: Sunday 24th October, BBC One (Only in Scotland)
Watch it now on BBC iPlayer.
BBC Programme Page
It's been less than a week since we won 'Best Series' & 'Earth Science' award at Wildscreen 2010 for 'How Earth Made Us' and already our intrepid presenter Professor Iain Stewart is back with a series close to his heart. This time he's hung up his globe-trotting boots and taken his insatiable passion for geology back home to Scotland. In 5 programmes - Trees, Earth, Sea, Water and Climate - he reveals how every square inch of his homeland has been affected by centuries of human activity.

"You think of Scotland as this great wilderness," he says "it's is sold on this premise that it's a pristine, untouched environment but it's a myth. For as long as humans have been around in Scotland they've been changing the landscape."

I had the honour of traveling deep beneath the Mexican desert to film the Giant Crystal Cave, with Iain, and for a man who has witnessed first hand most of the planets geological marvels he seems to be completely enthralled by the comparably tamed landscape of his own country. His usual high-adrenalin, high-octane performance is somewhat hushed and reverential, and quite a bit more Scottish - it's clear to see that this is a story he's been waiting to tell.

“If you mention Scotland to geologists anywhere in the world..." he says proudly "a kind of slightly misty nostalgia takes them over. Because there is a feeling that somehow the heartland of geology is in Scotland. It’s so small – it’s a tiny bit of land – but it has given so many ideas.”

Unfortunately 'Making Scotland's Landscape' is currently only broadcast on BBC One Scotland but Iain tells me that it will be broadcast across the UK sometime soon. If you're not in Scotland and you can't wait then thanks to the wonders of the BBC iPlayer, you don't have to!
Watch it now on BBC iPlayer.
- Paul

Programme 1: Trees

Iain uncovers how, over thousands of years, the actions of mankind and the climate nearly led to the downfall of Scotland's forests. Only in the 18th century was the extent of the damage realised, and measures taken to re-populate the landscape.

Professor Iain Stewart by Glen Nevis

In the clip below Iain attempts to climb a thirty-five metre Douglas Fir in homage to the tree hunters who travelled the globe searching for exotic species that could be replanted in Scotland.

Audio Walks
The day after the each episode is aired, BBC Radio Scotland listeners will be able to take their own tour with Iain Stewart in a series of downloadable audio walks reflecting on themes or places in the television series. Along with further information on the overall project, the audio walks are available from the BBC Scotland website.

Also available on the BBC Scotland website is a special online rephotography project. This features classic archive shots from across the country and invites members of the public to update them to mark the changing landscapes.

Monday, 25 October 2010

David Attenborough's 'First Life' - coming Nov 2010

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Sir David Attenborough is soon to be back with a spark - the spark of life and the story of 'First Life', a two-part series for BBC Two, to be broadcast at 9pm on Friday 5th and Friday 12th November 2010.  It will also be shown as a two-hour special by Discovery Channel in the US, and by broadcasters around the world, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in 2011.

In fifty years of broadcasting, Sir David Attenborough has travelled the globe to document the living world in all its wonder. Now, in the landmark series First Life, he goes back in time in search of the very first animals.

From the fog bound coastline of Newfoundland to the deserts of North Africa and the rainforests of Queensland, in First Life David Attenborough finds evidence in fossils and living animals of an extraordinary period in Earth’s history, half a billion years ago, when animals first appeared in the oceans. From the first eyes that saw, to the first predators that killed and the first legs that walked on land, these were creatures that evolved the traits and tools that allow all animals, including us, to survive to this day.

This is a story that can only be told now because in the last few years, stunning fossil finds at sites across the world have transformed our understanding of the First Life forms, and technology now allows us to recreate the first animals and their environments with photorealistic computer generated imagery (CGI). Read more on the 'First Life' website.

David Attenborough's First Life from Atlantic Productions on Vimeo.

It's not exactly Original, but I'd give my right leg...

Like millions of others I'm always excited to see a new Attenborough series and this is no exception - it promises to be a thrill-filled romp through weird and wonderful life forms from prehistory.

Unfortunately the series draws on the overused hyperbolic phrase 'using the latest technology' to describe how they are able to bring these animals to life for the first time in half a billion years. Er, I refer you to the many series the BBC have already produced which use CGI technology to do just that. My series 'Journey of Life' from 2005 for example, seems suspiciously similar. Arguably the only thing it lacked was the 'voice of god' from David Attenborough -  and that on it's own makes First Life worth watching, but it did feature a panoply of prehistoric critters that pop up again in First Life including the Ediacaran fauna and the folks of the Burgess Shale.

[I just noticed that since this article was published the line 'using the latest technology' has been cut  from the trailer... which used to occur just before 'it's possible to bring those creatures to life...' - Maybe someone is reading my posts! 27/10/10]

How original First Life may be is irrespective, I would still have given my right leg to work with David again, especially on a series about the evolution of the earliest Life on Earth - and featuring my favourite of all prehistoric predators - Anomalcaris. This already looks like it could be one of my top picks from this year, produced by Atlantic Productions. The same company who are currently putting the finishing touches to a 3D film presented by David for Sky (surprisingly Davids first significant foray away from the BBC) about prehistoric flying reptiles 'Flying Monsters'.

- Paul

The mystery fossils were in fact the jaws and appendages of a single animal, the first large predator known on Earth. It has been named Anomalcaris  after the first fossil discovery. (Atlantic Productions)

David Attenborough examines fossilised trilobites with Professor Richard Fortey, a leading trilobite expert. (Atlantic Productions)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Attenborough's Journey - The Making of 'First Life'

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Attenborough's Journey BBC Two, 8:00pm Sun, 24 Oct 2010

Watch on iPlayer

Follow David Attenborough as he travels the globe to film his new series 'First Life', in which he explores the very origins of life on Earth.

As a prelude to the 'First Life series', Attenborough's Journey provides a unique insight into the mind and character of one of the world's most iconic broadcasters as he shares his passions for the natural world. David journeys to the parts of the world which have had special meaning to him during his 50 years of broadcasting. Beginning near his boyhood Leicestershire home, where he first collected fossils, he then travels to Morocco's arid deserts, the glaciers of Canada and crystal clear waters of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Combining his global journey for First Life and archive material looking back at his illustrious career both as a programme maker and a controller of the BBC, the film reveals what makes him tick.

Read more on the Atlantic Productions website

Sir David Attenborough, being filmed for 'First Life' with a sponge - Atlantic Productions

Sir David Attenborough, being filmed for 'First Life' - Atlantic Productions

Sir David Attenborough has always loved fossils
"When I was growing up in the Midlands, the rocks and limestone you found were full of the most magical things," he recalls. "You hit a stone and it suddenly fell open, and there was this amazing coiled shell, beautiful and extraordinary, and nobody had seen that for 150 million years, except you." He found the experience romantic and exciting. And it appealed to his small boy's instinct of collecting things. "To be honest I don't think I've really lost that," he says.

Read more about Davids passion with fossils and prehistoric life on 'Earth News'

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Green the Film - winner of Wildscreen's 'Golden Panda'

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If you want to see powerful storytelling that has captured the hearts and emotions of the worlds top wildlife producers then watch this incredible film: 'Green The Film', Winner of this years Prestigious Wildscreen 'Golden Panda'.

Produced, Directed, Filmed and Edited by: Patrick Rouxel

"Her name is GREEN, she is alone in a world that doesn't belong to her. She is a female orangutan, victim of deforestation and resource exploitation. This film is an emotional journey with GREENs final days. With no narration, it is a visual ride presenting the devastating impacts of logging and land clearing for palm oil plantations, the choking haze created by rainforest fires and the tragic end of rainforest biodiversity. We watch the effects of consumerism and are faced with our personal accountability in the loss of the worlds rainforest treasures." Watch the entire film here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Stand up for the BBC

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It's about time people started standing up for the BBC. This is a great example of Pro-BBC support from comedian Mitch Ben (watch his music video here Come on people. Stand up for democracy, independent broadcasting, creativity and a proud world-leading institution that belongs to all British People. Think of all the great television and radio programmes that you love - think of all that would be lost without the BBC.

I am proud to work for an organisation that is respected and admired the world over - a shining ambassador for our nation since 1922. I am proud to work at the BBC Natural History Unit, a department of the BBC that has spread the wonder, beauty and importance of the planets life and ecology since 1957. Our programmes reach people from the remotest pacific islands to communities in distant deserts. Without the BBC so much of our global communications life-line would be lost.

Without the BBC we would fail to see so many wonders of the world, if we don't know what we have how can we ever hope to protect it? You know what the BBC is, think of all that it does, think of it as one of those wonders and be proud.

- Paul

Friday, 15 October 2010

'Kaziranga Land of the Rhino and the Tiger' a film by Sandesh Kadur

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I've just had the pleasure of joining wildlife filmmaker Sandesh Kadur for an exclusive and intimate big screen viewing of his film 'Kaziranga Land of the Rhino and the Tiger' - a pleasure to see my friend again and even more so to see his work (Sandesh was the star of The BBC Natural World film 'Mountains of the Monsoon').

'Kaziranga Land of the Rhino and the Tiger' is the first instalment of a series currently in production. It is a beautiful self-authored, self-produced piece that Sandesh filmed almost entirely on the new range of Canon DSLR cameras including the 5D mark2 and the 1D Mark4 - he even used a GoPro for some shots. It not only makes me wish I could spend more time in India but that I had a bigger budget to buy stills cameras with.

Technology aside, this film reveals the secretive beauty and drama of the Indian bush, and the true art of the wildlife cameraman. The stalker, the sit-and-wait naturalist, the fast acting adrenalin-fuelled image-hunter, Sandesh is them all. His cameras are his weapons, weapons that he uses to combat ignorance of the importance of conservation and the intricacies of the natural world. With incredible patience and a keen eye he is a man on a mission, interweaving his obsession for capturing images with a passionate yet calmly delivered narrative that leaves you hooked on the wonders of nature that he encounters - in this film its Tigers.

Sandesh visits Kaziranga home to the highest density of tigers in the world – nearly 32 for every 100 sq. kms. But this doesn’t mean that seeing a tiger here is easy! With the use of camera-trap technology and days patiently waiting in the hide he was able to film and photograph several different tigers scavenging on the meaty remains of a rhino carcass.

"Sitting in a hide can be tedious work. One has to withstand long hours of nothingness for a few moments of incredibleness... The only way to keep occupied is to watch life surround you as you sit quiet and motionless, hoping for something exciting to unfold. you're presence is unknown, birds come to within arm's reach, rhinos and elephants walk past... you're a spy - a spy in the jungle ;-)"

For more about Sandesh and his work visit his blog: Felis Creations.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Our 2 Panda Awards for 'How Earth Made Us'

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Best Series Award & The Earth Science Award.

Nigel Walk & I with our 2 Pandas for 'How Earth Made Us'

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Winners of Wildscreen 2010

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I'm here at Wildscreen - and we've just won Best Series & the Earth Science Award for 'How Earth Made Us'.

Here is the full list of Winners for Wildscreen 2010:

Animal Planet International People & Animals Award: Explorer: Gorilla Murders
National Geographic Television (USA)

BBC Newcomer award: Hudson's Monarch
Filmmaker - Mat Thompson (United Kingdom) (Mat helped massively with our filming of Stag Beetles for Animals Guide - congratulations!)

Campaign Award: Save Our Sharks
Save Our Seas Foundation (United Kingdom)

UWE Children's Choice: Monkey Thieves: Searching for Sanctuary
Off the Fence (Netherlands and United Kingdom)

Presenter-led award: Expedition Grizzly
Grizzly Creek Films (USA)
Co-produced with The National Geographic Channel, US
Presenter - Casey Anderson

Popular Broadcast: Lost Land of the Volcano: Programme 1
Co-produced with BBC Worldwide, Discovery Channel & NDR Naturfilm/Studio Hamburg (Germany) production

Earth Sciences: How Earth Made Us: Deep Earth (my series!)
BBC (United Kingdom)
Co-produced with BBC Factual & National Geographic Channels in association with ZDF

Short Film: The Coral Gardener
BBC (United Kingdom)

Arkive New Media: iSpot
Open University (United Kingdom)

Promoting filmmakers from Developing Countries: The Wild Meat Trail
Dusty Foot Productions (India)
Filmmakers - Rita Banerji & Shilpi Sharma

Animal Behaviour: The Pack: Episode 5
Animal Planet International (USA)

NHM Environment Award: Green Theatrical: The End of the Line
The Fish Film Company (United Kingdom)
Co-produced with Dartmouth Films, Calm Productions & Arcane Pictures

Music: The Crimson Wing, Mystery of the Flamingos
Disneynature (United Kingdom)
Co-produced with Natural Light Films and Kudos Pictures
Music - The Cinematic Orchestra

Outstanding Achievement: Nature and the folks behind this long running American series.

Editing: Wild Places of Essex
AGB Films Ltd (United Kingdom)
Co-produced with BBC Natural History Unit/BBC Worldwide
Editor - Nigel Buck

Sound: Ash Runners
Saint Thomas Productions (France) Co-produced with Arte France
Sound - Raphael Andrieu

Best Series: How Earth Made Us
BBC (United Kingdom) Co-produced with BBC Factual & National Geographic Channel US, in association with ZDF

Cinematography: The Forest: Realm of Shadows
A nautilusfilm GmbH (Germany) production for NDR Naturfilm/Studio Hamburg co-produced with ARTE, ORF in association with Parthenon Entertainment Camera - Jan Haft & Kay Ziesenhenne

Juries Choice Award: Life

Golden Panda: Green.

That's it from me... I'm getting drunk!

Our 2 Panda Awards - How Earth Made Us

Best Series Award & The Earth Science Award.

On my way to the 'Green Oscars' Wildscreen Awards. Hope we win plenty of 'Pandas' for 'Life' & 'How Earth Made Us'

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Another day filming with Ellie the Goshawk. Can u spot her?

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Jane Goodall: Beauty and The Beasts

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BBC4 Tonight, Tuesday October 12th 9pm, (Pick of the day - Sunday times, Choice in most other Sundays)

A young British woman called Jane goes into the African jungle, meets loads of chimpanzees and gets really famous: now where have we heard that story before? The life of Jane Goodall, a secretary from Bournemouth who ventured into the Tanzanian jungle in 1960 to study chimpanzees feels like something out of a kids' book. Beauty And The Beasts is not the most elegantly put together documentary but it serves as a great introduction to Goodall's life and work, which forever changed the way we see primates. Guardian

Produced and directed by Jeremy Bristow, Film Editor Dilesh Korya.

Monday, 11 October 2010

I'm sat 1 metre away from a young urban fox. I see him often - his mange gets worse. I will try & cure him.

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A vista of tiny trees. Rare 220mya 'Cotham Marble' found 2 mins from my house in Bristol but I bought it in Bakewell!

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Also known as 'Landscape Marble' because of its resemblance to a vista of trees and hedges.
Description from University of Bristol: This locally-occurring rock is a limestone, rather than a true marble. First described from the Rhaetian stage (Late Triassic) of the Cotham area of Bristol in 1754, its ‘landscape’ has been shown to have been produced by the growth of algae and worm-like organisms on ancient mud-flats. The algal mats bound the lime-rich sediment in layers (‘ploughed fields’), the surface of which developed polygonal ridges and tufts that became colonised by worm-like creatures. Algae and worms grew upwards together forming the dark ‘hedges’ and ‘trees’ and trapped mud in the hollows between them (‘sky’). This rock is known from a single horizon that outcrops in the West of England and South Wales, suggesting that the conditions that produced it – some 200 million years ago – were unique.

Monday, 4 October 2010

TV Behind the Scenes: An executive producer has a viewing with the producer

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This isn't Natural History but if you work in TV you'll probably have had similar things happen to you!

Horizon: The Death of the Oceans?

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Monday 4 October, 21:00, BBC 2

Sir David Attenborough reveals the findings of one of the most ambitious scientific studies of our time - an investigation into what is happening to our oceans. He looks at whether it is too late to save their remarkable biodiversity.

Horizon travels from the cold waters of the North Atlantic to the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef to meet the scientists who are transforming our understanding of this unique habitat. Attenborough explores some of the ways in which we are affecting marine life - from over-fishing to the acidification of sea water.

The film also uncovers the disturbing story of how shipping noise is deafening whales and dolphins, affecting their survival in the future.

Image: BBC

Producer/Director – Peter Oxley

Editor – Aidan Laverty

For further details visit the BBC website

Timeshift: When Britain Went Wild

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9pm, Tuesday 5th October BBC4

Documentary which explores the untold story of how Britain 'went wild' in the 1960s. It shows how the British people fell in love with animals and how, by the end of the decade, wildlife protection had become an intrinsic part of our culture. Before that time people knew very little about endangered species or the natural world - the very word 'environment' was hardly recognised. But the 1960s saw a sea change.

The film discovers how early television wildlife programmes with David Attenborough, writers such as Gerald Durrell and Gavin Maxwell and pioneers of conservation such as Peter Scott contributed to that transformation.

See clips on the BBC Website

Another great resource is the WildHistory website.

Producer: Sally Thomson Series Producer: Ben Southwell Executive Producer: Michael Poole.


Friday, 1 October 2010

The World's Biggest Cattle - my close encounter with Indian Gaur

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The Gaur is the largest species of wild cattle in the world, bigger than the African buffalo, the extinct aurochs, wild water buffalo or bison. Only Rhinos, Hippos and Elephants grown larger than these incredible animals. The males can weigh as much as 1.5 tonnes.

While traveling in South India in 2009 a farmer told us about a herd of Gaur that was casually chomping their way through a selection of farms and gardens. We watched them for over an hour as they munched and clambered through the vegetation. They were so preoccupied with feeding that they didn't seem to care who or what was nearby - and why should they. One female in particular seemed very relaxed in my presence so I was confident that I could get fairly close without alarming or spooking her. It was a real pleasure to feel the breath of this wondrous animal on my face before she finally sauntered off and disappeared into the forest.

Wild Gaur can be very dangerous animals and I wouldn't usually get this close - especially if they are with a calf or if it's breeding season, and I certainly would never attempt to get this close to one of those powerful males. By all accounts they can be quite moody!

Get the flash player here:

Editing the video of my encounter with the worlds largest wild cattle - Indian Gaur. Here's a screenshot - What happened next?

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Actually, nothing happened, well not what you're thinking! This female was so preoccupied with feeding that I don't think she could care less who or what was nearby. She was part of a herd that was casually chomping their way through a selection of farms and gardens. I'd been watching this individual for over an hour and she seemed very relaxed with my presence. It was a real pleasure to feel the breath of this wonderous animal on my face. I wouldn't usually get this close though as they can be very dangerous animals - especially if they are with their calf or if it's breeding season.
Video coming soon...
Posted via email from Iron Ammonite on Posterous

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lily the Black Bear (from The Natural World Bearwalkers)

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Loving the ongoing saga of Lily and her family, who you may have seen on Natural World earlier this year.

You can keep up to date with her and join over 100k other fans of Lily and her daughter Hope on Facebook.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting started in Wildlife TV - Have you thought about Wildscreen?

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Originall posted in The Naturewatch 29th Sept 2010

'One thing for sure is that, whatever the path, it’s up to the individual and their dogged persistence combined with undying passion that will get them through the bumpy, muddy, arduous jungle road that is the path towards becoming a wildlife photographer or filmmaker.' - Sandesh Kadur Felis Blog

Other than being dogged and persistent, another top tip is to attend the Wildscreen international film festival.

What is Wildscreen?

This biannual festival is the Mecca for Wildlife Filmmakers, internationally acknowledged as the most influential and prestigious event of its kind in the world. The aim of Wildscreen is to celebrate, applaud and encourage excellence, and responsibility, in wildlife and environmental filmmaking - films which increase the global viewing public's understanding of the natural world, and the need to conserve it.

By attending wildscreen you'll get a real flavour for the wildlife filmmaking industry and see what's hot and what's not for those who are commissioning programmes or hiring new talent. You'll hear behind the scenes stories from producers and presenters, cameramen and editors and discover what it takes to make a top natural history film. Most importantly you'll meet people who can inspire and help you on your way. And as Sandesh says it will 'help fuel the passion and jump-start your career in wildlife TV' - it certainly did that for me when I was seeking my break in the industry almost 10 years ago and It's been a top event in my calendar ever since.

If you're fresh from university then you'll probably find the festival a bit on the expensive side - about 600pounds to register as a full delegate. The budget option is to become a festival volunteer, or apply for a reduced rate as a newcomer. If you've just produced your first wildlife film then enter it for the highly prized newcomers award - a real springboard to success.

The Workshops

The workshops are really worth attending as you'll get hands on with cutting edge technology and learn from the experts - everything from highspeed filming and 3D cameras to workshops about how to be a wildlife TV researcher. This year I'll be running one entitled 'Breaking out of the Box' about how to produce content for a web audience.

The Awards

The highlight of the festival for me is always the Gala Panda Awards Ceremony. Wildscreen is a competition as well as a Festival and this is the night when the award winners will be announced. The stakes are high as the awards have established themselves as the Green Oscars, and the posh black-tie do certainly has an air of hollywood glitz about it. This year it will be hosted by Kate Silverton and Benedict Allen.

I'll be there in anticipation of one of my series winning an accolade. 'Life' is up for a whole range of awards, and 'How Earth Made Us' is in the running for the Earth Science Award, as well as best series.

It was an honour at the 2008 Panda Awards, when we won the Golden Panda for 'Life in Cold Blood'.
For handy tips and advice on starting a career in wildlife television get your hands on a copy of the book by Piers Warren titled: Careers in Wildlife Filmmaking.

Good luck
- Paul 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Filming Tigers - a BBC Insight

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Tigers are a real hot topic for the BBC Natural History Unit, especially with the current success of 'Lost Land of the Tiger' a BBC expedition that discovered a lost population living in the remote Bhutan Mountains (Earth News). Having tracked Tigers myself to film (Poo, Pee & Pugmarks)  I know just how difficult it is to catch even a glimpse of this fascinating feline! But here is an exclusive insight into the BBC's perspective on the thrill and frustration of filming tigers in the wild. From BBC Wildlife Finder. 

- Paul

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Faking it? Wildlife filmmaker Chris Palmer publishes 'Shooting in the Wild' to reveal all

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The following is an edited excerpt from an article by Daniel de Vise published in the Washington Post, Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Read the full article here

Environmental Film Maker, Chris Palmer 63, has written a confessional for an entire industry. "Shooting in the Wild," published this year, exposes the unpleasant secrets of environmental filmmaking: manufactured sounds, staged fights, wild animals that aren't quite wild filmed in nature that isn't entirely natural. Nature documentaries "carry the promise of authenticity." Nature filmmakers profess to present animal life as it is lived, untouched by mankind. Yet human fingerprints are everywhere.

Nature is frequently boring. Wild animals prefer not to be seen

Palmer's book underscores the fundamental challenge of wildlife filmmaking: Nature is frequently boring. Wild animals prefer not to be seen."If you sit in the wild and watch wildlife, nothing happens for a very long time," said Maggie Burnette Stogner, an environmental filmmaker who works with Palmer on the American University faculty. "That's mostly what happens in wildlife."

Nature footage is hard-earned. A crew might spend six weeks in discomfort and tedium for a few moments of dramatic cinema. Certain shots -- animal births, or predators seizing prey -- are difficult to capture by chance. So some filmmakers set them up.

The lemmings that plunge to their deaths in the 1958 Disney documentary "White Wilderness" were hurled ingloriously to their doom by members of the crew, as a Canadian documentary revealed. Palmer writes that Marlin Perkins, host of television's "Wild Kingdom," was known to bait animals into combat and to film captive beasts deposited into the wild, and that the avian stars of the 2001 film "Winged Migration" were trained to fly around cameras.

"Sanctimonious smugness"

Erik Nelson, a prolific environmental filmmaker in Los Angeles, finds "a sort of sanctimonious smugness to his book that sets my teeth on edge." Nelson is a glancing target in Palmer's book; the author portrays Nelson's eight-part television series "The Grizzly Man Diaries" as "sensational" and lambastes the animal-attack genre that Nelson helped to create. Nelson, in turn, asserts that Palmer has seldom actually shot a nature film -- most of Palmer's credits have come in the comparatively detached role of executive producer. He terms Palmer's ethics crusade "a giant nothingburger of an issue." (Palmer says he has been "deeply involved" in all of his films.)

"If there is an ethical beacon that guides the wildlife channels, it is the quest for realism."

Programmers say they condone the use of captive animals as stand-ins for wildlife, and contrived meetings between species, as long as all involved are acting naturally and the viewer is seeing things that might actually happen in nature

Palmer disapproves. In his book, he proposes that every nature film might open with a disclaimer on the screen that says something like, "All the scenes in this film are real and not staged," or, more probably, "Some of the scenes depicted in this film were shot with tame, captive animals." Not likely, say industry colleagues. Who wants to watch a tame nature film?

Read the full article from the Washington Post here