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 http://t.co/Mxf3WDH). 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. http://tinyurl.com/2e348cu

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: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

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...
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