BRISBANE – For decades, technological advancements in filmmaking have played a vital role in bringing the natural world to television audiences. But with nearly every corner of the Earth having been seen on tape, natural history filmmakers are being forced to find new ways into their storytelling.
During Thursday’s (Nov. 29) “Wild Future” panel discussion at the 2018 World Congress of Science and Factual Producers, content creators across the wildlife space gathered to discuss the latest and greatest technologies, and how they’re shaping natural history content.
The session, moderated by Veronica Fury, executive producer and principal of Australia’s WildBear Entertainment, and featuring Tetsunori Kikuchi, a senior producer at Japan’s NHK; Catherine Ball, founder and executive director of World of Drones Education in Australia; and Kyle Murdoch, MD of New Zealand factual powerhouse NHNZ, provided key takeaways about what the immediate future of the genre will look like:
UHD technology is seriously advancing
Japan’s NHK will launch standalone 4K and 8K UHD channels in the coming weeks expected to open new horizons for wildlife films. Anchoring the network’s forthcoming ultra high definition slate is a 4K live event from Antarctica this Saturday (Dec. 1) that will provide an in-depth examination of the Antarctic environment and the wildlife that thrives in its climate.
8K, which is said to have the same resolution as a human’s naked eye, will provide audiences with such a strong immersive viewing experience that it will feel as though they have been ushered into the actual filming environment, according to its proponents.
Projects being filmed by NHK in 8K include a series exploring underwater sinkholes in Mexico, otherwise known as cenotes; a film that will study an ice locked lake in Antarctica; and footage of coral reefs in the southern seas in Japan.
“NHK is developing 8K wildlife series in collaboration with scientists to better understand and record our world,” Kikuchi said. “We believe that 8K technology is not just for the sake of high resolution natural history programs, but to help scientists and science itself.”
Kikuchi said the Japanese national broadcaster’s science team is also experimenting in 20K and in 200K, as incomprehensible as that may currently be.
Big Pacific is getting a follow-up
New Zealand factual producer NHNZ is currently in production on a highly anticipated follow up to last year’s 4K premium blue-chip series Big Pacific (4 x 60 minutes; pictured), which revealed the Pacific Ocean’s most guarded secrets.
With most of the same partners on board, the cinematic sequel Big Ice will cost an estimated US$10 million to develop and will consist of four episodes that will document the myriad wildlife thriving in frigid climates.
“I just hope by the time this is finished in about 2021 that things haven’t changed with regards to ice environments,” Murdoch said.
Natural history works in bite size
While blue-chip juggernauts are big, shiny products that can encourage change, there are other ways of telling inspirational natural history stories that are quicker and much more cost effective.
With 74% of video content moving online and worldwide demand for short-form natural history content growing, Murdoch noted that NHNZ’s recently launched short-form division, WiLD Studios, is looking at how the prodco’s past traditional long-form programs can be repackaged into very short packets.
“Good premium long-form content will always be around, but I do think there’s a place for developing short-form,” Murdoch said. “I can’t spend three years making the definitive film about the Great Barrier Reef because it’ll be too late. As producers, we should be creating content a little quicker to try and get our message out there.”