Magazine article Variety

Night Cameras Catch Unique Moments for BBC's 'Dynasties'

Magazine article Variety

Night Cameras Catch Unique Moments for BBC's 'Dynasties'

Article excerpt

Just getting to one of the locations of BBC wildlife documentary series "Dynasties" - presented by David Attenborough and following the lives of endangered animals - requires an 11-hour flight from London to Johannesburg, a two-hour connection to Harare, Zimbabwe, an hourlong chartered Cessna 206 trip to Mana Pools National Park airstrip and an hour's drive to the banks of the Zambezi River.

Imagine the logistics of making the trek with 50 bags of gear.

Difficulties abound. Authorities will "go through every single piece of equipment, every battery you have, to match serial numbers," says Nick Lyon, director of the series' "Painted Wolf" episode. He adds that producers need to be aware of certain restrictions, including the prohibition of camera equipment of American military origin.

Lyon and executive producer Mike Gunton (who won an Emmy on his last collaboration with Attenborough, "Planet Earth II") were not allowed to bring in the latest HD thermal cameras, which they were going to use for night shoots. Instead, they deployed the Ammonite thermal camera, a retrofitted model that's a favorite of Justine Evans, a DP who specializes in night wildlife cinematography.

"It's not even SD," says Lyon, "but [the images it takes are] incredible. It's much more about the dynamic range than the number of pixels" when you're working in thermal. "Our colorist, Simon Bland, who had been working on another series, swears the image was better. …

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