Mike Gunton

On Wednesday 29 March I attended the Royal Television Society’s Baird Lecture at The Bramall, delivered by Mike Gunton.

In his illustrated talk Mike, the Creative Director and Executive Producer of the BBC Natural History Unit, spoke about the production process behind the hugely-successful ‘Planet Earth II’.

Mike spoke about how filming techniques had moved on since the first ‘Planet Earth’. Drones had given the team access to parts of the world inaccessible to humans and their handheld gyroscopic cameras allowed them to get closer to animals than ever before. They adapted technology used by the military to get impressive, detailed night sequences.

A few key takeaways for me included:

  • A team of over 1,000 delivered ‘Planet Earth II’, from drivers and caterers to the myriad cameraman and field workers
  • For certain sequences the team deliberately turned off their GPS tracking system so that the location of some of the world’s rarest animals will remain unknown
  • The ‘soundscape’ of the series was carefully thought out so that it would include natural sounds, animal sounds, Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, and Sir David
  • The team did intervene with animals’ situations where appropriate, including the sequence where hatchling turtles were attracted to building lights instead of the moon
  • The carbon footprint of the series was taken into consideration, with local teams and renewable energy being used where possible
  • A matrix of deliverables was devised based on what the team wanted to film – e.g. a bird, a reptile, a mammal, a soft, furry mammal, a sad sequence, a dramatic sequence…

Mike feels, and I agree, that the strength of ‘Planet Earth II’ is that it gave you a connection to the animals. The series aimed to inform, educate and entertain and it certainly delivered.

When studying these animals Mike realised that within the species each animal is unique. Some are brave, some are timid. Some are clever, some are less so. ‘Planet Earth II’ deliberately referenced mankind’s interference in the natural world and Mike said he hoped that a series will be dedicated to conservation.

It was a fascinating talk and I left feeling inspired, my mind full of what Mike had said about the unique filming methods, the trials they faced and, of course, working with the incomparable Sir David Attenborough.

Mike Gunton delivers the Baird Lecture at The Bramall
Mike Gunton stays on to answer the unending series of questions from a very enthusiastic audience.

 

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