Jhe tension in the air was palpable as the group of television producers eagerly waited to see what would happen when the Siberian tiger slipped into the bear cave. It was a groundbreaking moment in wildlife documentary making, and a moment that will be seen by millions of people who tune in. Frozen Planet II.
It took three years of perseverance and trial-and-error filming in Russian forests using remote cameras to get the footage of tigers entering bear caves, said Elizabeth White – who worked on the original frozen planet and produced the award-winning film Episode “Iguanas vs. Snakes” of Planet Earth II.
The tiger footage captured a moment so unique it even surprised David Attenborough. White told the Observer that after hearing reports of tigers occasionally snagging hibernating bears, filming it was “a labor of love” and “like finding needles in a haystack”.
“We completely failed the first year, so we changed our location in season two and got some nice shots – but not much substance. Then a local photographer told us our cameras were too big – the tigers We looked at the technology he was using, and sure enough, the tigers were detecting the bigger cameras.
By then, “the technology had moved on,” White said, “and we were able to get a smaller camera that had a high enough resolution, and we were able to get images of tigers entering caves.”
She said Attenborough was “particularly impressed” by these images of tigers and leopards. “We filmed both species using the same trails in the same forest, which he was fascinated to see,” she said.
He was also “very excited” by other scenes in the six-part series, including killer whales creating waves to wash seals off the pack ice, the film of an arctic bumblebee captured in its dark snow trough at the using a probe camera and an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies filmed, for the first time according to White, by a racing drone – a brand new tiny drone with a 360-degree camera and controlled by a helmet and goggles .
“We have a team of young guys who normally launch these drones up into the mountains to chase snowboarders, and they were ready to try and capture avalanches,” she said. “It’s one of the most exciting sequences I’ve ever seen of a landscape.”
Attenborough, 96, is renowned for his interest in new technology and “is very excited about drones,” White said. “It was all new and exciting for him. He loves stories he’s never heard before, and it’s unusual to find one because he’s been everywhere and seen it all.
Technology has transformed documentary filmmaking since the first frozen planet, she says. “When we filmed the original series about 11 or 12 years ago, everything was sort of pre-digital; part of it was still shot on tape. The technological advances of the last 10 years have been enormous.
She said remote cameras and drones allow natural history teams to get “insight into new behaviors and [have] the ability to film in landscapes where you could never get a helicopter.
“In the Chinese mountains, we place small cameras above the snow line to capture images of wild pandas in winter. We’ve got some lovely footage of a male panda coming in, and he’s sticking his bottom up and rubbing it against a tree: looks like he’s twerking or something.
“Obviously you would never get that normally – you couldn’t put a cameraman in hiding for all the months it took to capture him.”
Other highlights include rare footage of male and female adolescent polar bears playing together on the ice.
Advances in cameras, including “weatherproof, cold-ready cameras you can place on the side of glaciers to help document climate change,” are giving viewers new insights into the crisis facing our planet. , she added.
The production crew and crew faced many challenges during the four years of filming frozen planet II, to make polar bear-proof cameras by running cables through scaffolding poles to try to make tiny cameras indestructible to New Zealand’s alpine kea parrots who separated them (“one completely trashed one of our cameras,” White said).
Other trials included cameramen having to spend 10 days in a row acclimatizing on an ice cap in Peru to change camera batteries, having to keep batteries warm under their clothes and camping on ice floes in Antarctica. while trying to stop melting. to the icy seas below.
But the effort is likely to be rewarded by large audiences and help raise awareness of climate change and our changing world, as other BBC nature documentaries have done over the years.
Friends of the Earth policy chief Mike Childs said: ‘The BBC’s fantastic natural history programs have been bringing the wonders of our planet to our homes for decades and allowing us to temporarily escape to places magic of which we often know nothing or almost nothing. .
“Importantly, they not only helped raise awareness of the beauty and wonder of our natural world, but also alerted us to its fragility and the myriad threats it faces.”
Childs pointed out: “The raw and heartbreaking images of Blue Planet II not only highlighted the dangers of plastic pollution, but also sparked a huge public outcry that forced government and business to take the issue much more seriously and act on unnecessary plastic.
Frozen Planet airs Sunday, September 11 at 8 p.m. on BBC One.