Here in jolly England we’ve had 6 months of HD television, and the selection so far has been adequate, but still fairly limited.
At the time of writing there are exactly 13 HD channels, which include 4 movie channels, 4 lifestyle channels, 3 sports channels, 1 general interest channel and BBC HD. The latter is basically just a preview channel at the moment with various 3-5 minute selections of footage from BBC Dramas, entertainment shows and natural history programming, which are all universally being shot now by the BBC in high definition.
The promise of all this is breathtaking and the channel makes a very nice showcase to have on if you have friends round or whatever. But it is just that… a promise, a tease.
The BBC certainly has enough HD material to fill a round the clock channel, but for whatever reason they are not doing so. It’s probably arguments over funding, scheduling or some other typical BBC politics.
For a couple of hours per day however we are treated to some full length HD programming, and no better example is the absolutely stunning, gasp out loud amazing natural history series ‘Planet Earth’.
For many years the BBC has had its specialist natural history unit spirited away in a regional town called Bristol, about two-and-a-half hours outside of London. These guys (and girls) are literally the very best in the world at what they do, and in my personal opinion more talented and dedicated than the very best feature film directors or cinematographers. I used to work as a cameraman, and what these people do leaves me speechless.
No better example of their sheer talent and determination is apparant than in this new series Planet Earth. With the venerable David Attenborough as narrator, and with HD at their disposal, the natural history unit in Bristol has come up with the most amazing natural history series you have ever seen in your life.
Currently airing in Britain on Sunday nights for a second run, and in HD, it is appointment to view television like nothing I’ve experienced. The wife and I literally look forward to Sundays at 9pm so we can sit down, with lights turned off, and travel to a world we’re unlikely to ever see in person. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that about television.
Last night was a show about the jungles of the world. Stretching from the rainforests of South America, to New Guinea and back to Africa, you get to see creatures and plants that you simply had no idea even existed. There are the fungal spores that absorb themselves into insects such as ants, move through their bodies into their brains, send them mad, kill them, then grow out ‘Alien style’ from their heads. I’m not joking. There is the spider who lives on the outside of an insect trapping plant, who rappels down into the plant to steal the insects trapped within, narrowly avoiding death itself. There are the male birds of paradise in New Guinea (see pic), who in a role reversal of humans, put on incredibly bizzare, costume-like displays, to attract the rather boring and dull looking females.
If you get the chance to see this series, do not hesitate, do not pass go, buy an HD television just to watch it. You will never in your life be so taken back and surprised by the world that exists around us.
I particularly like how at the end of each show you get to see how the filmmakers achieved some of the ‘how-did-they-do-that shots’. For the birds of paradise segment, one cameraman spent 5 weeks, for up to 15 hours in a day, waiting inside a hideaway, for just three shots. The result is something that has never before been captured on camera.
Bravo and kudos.

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