193: BBC America, Planet Earth II – Mike Gunton & The Tech Behind The Show

Feb 14, 2017
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BBC America’s Planet Earth II recently became the highest-rated U.S. nature show. The series is also delighting both critics and viewers after securing a 96 rating on Metacritic, and a perfect 100 score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since the original Planet Earth series offered a different view of the world in which we all reside. The groundbreaking show was filmed over three years in 40 different countries, over 117 filming trips and a total of 2089 shooting days all creating this jaw-dropping look at our planet.

The most noticeable change in this latest series is the cinematic aspect of life on earth. Advances in camera technology appear to have transformed natural history filmmaking to provide an entirely new perspective and enhance our understanding of the natural world.

Earlier this month, executive producer Mike Gunton told the Television Critics Association “One of the differentiators between the original Planet Earth series and this series is the technology.” There is no denying that these advances in cinematography are responsible for a much more intimate sequel.

The breathtaking scene between racing snakes and baby iguana had audiences on the edge of their seats as they cheered for the iguanas like it was a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Some might say, this story of life and death that unfolded before our eyes were more intense than anything you would see in the cinema.

The ability to film from both the iguana’s and the snake’s perspective captured this real-life narrative as it happened illustrates just how far camera technology has evolved. When I asked Gunton about his thoughts on the breathtaking scene, he joked that “I defy anybody to watch that without shouting at the TV screen run iguana run. It’s going to be the slogan of the year.”

In a world where we binge watch TV shows on our couch, there is a very strong argument that we have become disconnected from nature. Although the show is aiming to fix that problem through the medium of technology, it’s the narration of Sir David Attenborough that brings the show to life.

Gunton has been working with the voice of nature for 30 years now and admitted: “I can’t help but have his voice in my head I’m thinking about a sequence or about how we might unfold the story.” The executive producer also said “Our job is to inspire and get people to care about creatures. And I think David does that in an unparalleled way.”

Most people would agree that spending time with people that have a different philosophy to life than yourself will challenge your worldview and help with personal growth. But, I asked if spending thousands of hours with animals can change your opinion of them too?

I think if you do spend time watching animals, after being with them, you start to realize that they do have personality. They can be stupid, clever, brave, timid, aggressive or submissive. Just like humans, their fate is determined by the choices that they make.

By zooming into the heart of the action, viewers of Planet Eath II will make the connection that the creatures that share our planet will also make life changing decisions. Whether it’s choosing the left turn that will have a positive outcome or the right turn that is a dangerous choice.

They say that technology works best when it brings people together, but in the case of Planet Earth II, it’s allowing the viewers to see this world from the animal perspective. While many humans are fueled by narcissism and self-importance, Planet Earth II is a timely reminder that we are merely one of the millions of other species that share this planet.

Mike Gunton

On my podcast, I chatted with Mike Gunton about the secret ingredients of camera technology and Sir David Attenborough that make Planet Earth II an unmissable TV show.

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