How wildlife films warp time

How wildlife films warp time


In the Jungles episode of the BBC’s Planet
Earth II, there’s a stunning scene of hummingbirds in Ecuador, flying in slow motion. And when it aired in the UK, some viewers
wondered if the BBC actually created the footage with computer graphics. And you can’t blame them. With our own eyes, we’ll never see hummingbirds
looking like this, just like we’ll never see plants growing like this. That’s because the camera is warping time. Slow motion shots are made by increasing the
camera’s frame rate. To slow down action without losing quality,
you have to capture more frames. Like the hummingbirds, many of the shots in
Planet Earth II are at least somewhat slower than real time, or what producers call “off-speed.” Shooting at 60 or 100 frames per second, with
playback at 25 frames per second — that tends to heighten the drama and smooth out
camera movements in the footage. But slow motion can do more than that — it
can also give us a chance to look at processes that our naked eyes could never catch. That’s why ultra high speed cameras were
invented in the first place – Cameras that can shoot thousands, even tens of thousands
of frames per second. They gave scientists and engineers a way to
study all sorts of physical and mechanical processes that happen over milliseconds. And when trained on animals, high speed cameras
can teach us about anatomy and behavior, like the function of these drumstick-shaped organs
on flies. ATTENBOROUGH: By beating very fast, and here
they’re slowed down 120 times, they give the fly stability in the air. The BBC’s Natural History Unit filmed this
crane fly around 40 years ago. We’re used to seeing this kind of thing
now, but it was much more of a challenge in the days of film. GUNTON: You almost always had to do it in
a kind of almost a studio setting and you’d kind of sit there with this button. And you wait and hope that something will
happen. You press the button and the camera goes whirrrr
to speed up. You then get about two seconds of shot and
then you hear the film going shhshhhshh out of the camera as it spun out. You then get it off to be developed and find
that, you know, in those the two seconds that you had, the animal had lept out of the frame
so you throw it away and start again. The switch from film to digital cameras changed
everything. For one thing, they could review the footage
on monitors, to see if they got their shot. But also, digital high speed cameras came
with a continuous recording feature. Instead of pressing a button to start recording
and then pressing it again to stop, they could press the button as soon as they saw some
action, and the camera would save the seconds that happened before the button was pressed. That’s how the cameraman captured this great
white shark coming out of the water, not just in the air, for this sequence in the 2006
Planet Earth series. Unpredictable action was still a challenge
— this took them a couple of weeks on a boat to get. But with digital cameras, the BBC brought
high speed photography out of the studio and into the wild, where they could capture things
like a chameleon hunting in Madagascar. GUNTON: They’re notorious for these tongues
that fly out and catch things and they’re really hard, I mean really hard to film. GUNTON: When we filmed this- you saw how
the tongue kind of unfolds as it goes out. And everybody thinks they’re sticky, they’re
not. At the end of the tongue is a kind of a muscular
blob at the end. It’s almost like a hand inside a glove and
this end goes like this and almost grabs the head of this creature and then drags it back
which is sort of ghoulishly ghastly but also amazing. Digital cameras also transformed the process
of making timelapse sequences — for when real life isn’t too fast but too slow. The timelapse process is basically the opposite
of slow motion. Instead of capturing more frames, you take
fewer over a longer period of time. Timelapses can help show animal behaviors
that take hours to unfold, like these sand sand bubbler crabs that make balls of sand
as they look for food at low tide. But the BBC’s timelapse work really got
started when they decided in the 1990s to make a series entirely about plants. Timelapse would be the key tool for bringing
the drama of plant growth into our timescale. But no technology existed at the time to automate
time lapse photography. So, they invented their own. NIGHTINGALE: So we developed little computer
boxes, about this size, which would drive the time lapse cameras, would drive the flash
guns, which we’d use to make sure the light was the same whether there was a cloud out
or the sun was out, the sun was in and so on. And we built these little programmable computers
and we took them all around the world long before we had laptops like you’ve got, you
know, sitting on your lap there. Some shots could take place out in the wild,
but others required more controlled conditions and elaborate sets. These waterlily leaves were grown from seeds
in huge vats. The water levels, temperature, and lighting
all had to be controlled for consistency from shot to shot. NIGHTINGALE: Then, of course, we had to get
lots of different shots, closeups, wideouts. We wanted to get shots in the tank, looking
up, seeing —So I mean, it took months. Just a huge, huge, effort and hopefully when
you look at it, it’ll feel seamless. That series also introduced the technique
of tracking timelapse, where the camera moves too. Now, digital cameras come with the ability
to program a timelapse sequence, and motorized sliders can automate tracking timelapses. So the BBC keeps pushing the technique further. In 2009’s Life, they took the it underwater
in the frigid Antarctic ocean to show ribbon worms and sea stars feeding on a dead seal. And in the cities episode of Planet Earth
2, they showcased a new type of timelapse called “hyperlapse.” Now, instead of just moving the camera slightly
on a slider, the camera’s moving through whole cities, taking thousands of huge images
that get stitched together in precise ways on a computer. GUNTON: So it gives you a kind of a journey
in timelapse. It might not look like the style of traditional
wildlife films, but in fact the tradition at the BBC has always been to seize new technology
and techniques to capture the world in brand new ways. GUNTON: That’s one of the things that’s
so wonderful about television — is when you can take an audience and show them something
that no human eye could ever see, that only the camera can see. Thank you for watching! You can find Planet Earth 2 on BBC America. It will be airing Saturdays through March
25th. You can also find tons of clips from their
archive on BBC Earth’s mobile app. It’s called Story of Life and it’s actually
where I found a lot of the clips that I used in this video. And it’s free! So check it out.

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100 thoughts on “How wildlife films warp time

  1. BBC Planet Earth and Blue Planet time lapse is pure eye candy. I wish they can teach you how to do that.

  2. so no one hears the "procesees" and in the other filming animals videos the word "axeeees"?? haha it shouldn't but hits my ears in an awkward way

  3. 6:00 that shot was unbelievable , I came across it one morning while scrolling through Netflix and man I had to watch it 5 times over. I especially liked the shot from the top of the building showing the road below and all of the people/cars and as it pans to the left to the highway or whatever else was to the right of the shot. Absolutely incredible.

  4. The original high speed shutter was taking the old strobe lights being used as the only illumination in a capture. The shutter times were capable of warp speeds.

  5. every video, television or internet, is a construct of someone's imagination, the Editor. hours and hours of footage that have to be carved down to a few snippet moments so the average
    Anthropoid Hominid Troglodyte can grasp the concepts presented. warping time, how about warping minds that barely function to begin.

  6. 0:37 This is sort of incorrect. Capturing more frames, of course, allows for smoother footage when slowed down, but is enormously more hardware intensive and often times it's only practical to decrease the resolution to allow for more frames to be captured without taking up as much space and to be more forgiving on the hardware. High-budget filming companies, of course, can afford to keep both framerates and resolution high, but there's still a limit.

  7. It’s just sad to watch a video talking about creating films shot at 60 to 100 fps with the actual video only at 30fps. Before this, just finished watching and amateur vlog shot on 1080p at 60fps. Just sad. Still love Vox though! No hate! 😁

  8. You can tell the guy talking about chameleons has only watched the films and never really handled one. There tongues are both grabby blob things and extremely sticky. Any Cham owner knows because they will someday face the terrifying fate of having a Cham miss something you’re feeding it stick your finger than slowly retract you into into a bite

  9. I love this channel.
    They choose absolutely different topics were once in my mind like how they made maps in the old Era where there were no satellites

  10. My whole family started watching an episode a night of The Planet Earth II. Sadly their contracts expire Dec 3 and it'll be off Netflix

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