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PBS, Discovery Canada prep “Earth From Space”

U.S. pubcaster PBS, Discovery Canada and the UK's Darlow Smithson Productions are teaming up for a groundbreaking two-hour coproduction which will use real-time scientific data to create CGI video of natural events.
February 2, 2011

U.S. pubcaster PBS, Discovery Canada and the UK’s Darlow Smithson Productions are teaming up for a groundbreaking two-hour coproduction which will use real-time scientific data to create CGI video of natural events, realscreen can reveal.

The tentatively titled two-hour special Earth From Space is being made by Darlow Smithson to air on PBS’s Nova strand. Howard Swartz, exec producer for WGBH-TV/Nova, told realscreen: “The special will see NASA scientists taking raw data from satellite feeds and sending it to animators, who will turn it into real-time animation.”

Nova played an early CGI clip from the project – showing water molecules amassing to form a hurricane – at the Keeping It Cool: Science And Natural History session at the Realscreen Summit in Washington DC yesterday.

Discovery Channel president and general manager Clark Bunting was among those impressed by the footage, describing the clip as “jaw-dropping” and telling delegates: “I could easily see that [working] on the Discovery Channel.”

Earth From Space is one of two specials being made by Darlow Smithson for Nova. The Endemol-owned production company is also in the early stages of development on another two-hour production, tentatively entitled Life Beyond Earth. That special will use CGI to show presenters walking on the surface of planets such as Jupiter and Venus.

Nova expects to air one of the specials this year and one in 2012, although it is yet to be decided which will play first.

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About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.

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