Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

History of the NHU

History of the NHU

Founded in 1957, the NHU began by producing mainly British wildlife films and live programmes in black and white, such as The Fulmar and Animal Magic.

When Life on Earth was broadcast in 1979 it was NHU's most ambitious project to date, capturing on film David Attenborough’s famous encounter with gorillas in Rwanda.

The NHU has been home to long-running strands such as Look, Wildlife On One and, today, Natural World. From Meerkats United’s insight into the social lives of meerkats to Life In Cold Blood's use of thermal imaging, the Unit has continued to produce a broad range of television, radio and online content, often developing pioneering technology to uncover the stories of the natural world.

It took four years to make Planet Earth, the first NHU series to be filmed in HD, giving audiences in 2006 the chance to see some of the most remote corners of the world. More recently teams working on Frozen Planet have spent years coping with freezing temperatures and melting ice to present a portrait of the last great wildernesses on the planet – the Polar regions.

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Production at the NHU

Production at the NHU

The NHU has been at the forefront of natural history programme making for over 50 years, developing the technology needed to go further, faster, higher and deeper in order to bring the natural world's most compelling stories to life.

From the camera traps that gathered unique footage for Lost Land Of The Tiger to the gyro-stabilised helicopter mounts first used for filming landscapes in Planet Earth; from the ultra-speed techniques on The One Show to the blue-screen technology bringing CBeebies Andy's Wild Adventures to life; the broad range of content produced by the NHU allows technology and skills to flow between different areas. This in turn increases innovation.

The timelapse photography that first opened up The Private Life Of Plants to audiences in 1995 has now been developed further on Frozen Planet, filming motion-controlled timelapses under ice in Antarctica.

Multiplatform content has been used extensively in many different ways by the audiences of Springwatch and Deadly 60. There is a wealth of BBC Natural History content available online through the BBC Nature portal, which presents breaking news, features, opinions, amazing films and photographs of animals and plants.

Live shows have grown from first Badgerwatch and then Reefwatch – the first live underwater broadcast – through shows like Big Cat Live to Springwatch, where viewers can watch live footage from nest cams on their mobiles.

The foundation of the NHU is a core of specialists with a passion for the natural world, driven by the desire to communicate this to the audience using every technique available.

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The NHU and Radio

The NHU and Radio

The Natural History Unit provides a voice for the natural world on BBC speech networks, producing programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service.

In 2010 David Attenborough won a Sony Radio Academy Gold Award for Best Speech Broadcaster for David Attenborough's Life Stories. This ten-minute natural history slot developed by NHU Radio gives audiences access to David Attenborough's wonderful storytelling and personal life history.

NHU Radio also delivers major broadcast events. In 2008 the Unit produced World On The Move, a 40-episode live event following the migration of animals around the globe. World On The Move won acclaim for being innovative, thrilling listening on a scale that only the BBC can deliver.

In 2010 and 2011 NHU Radio is producing Saving Species, a 70-episode season of live radio that aims to cover today's wildlife conservation agenda around the world. These programmes feature content from NHU TV teams embedded on location around the world and other external collaborators, offering new talent, unique journalistic skills and access to remote parts of the world to UK and world audiences.

NHU Radio also gives audiences access to the natural history of Britain in The Living World and the many one-off drama and feature programmes the team produces.

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The NHU and Children's

The NHU and Children's

The Natural History Unit aims to produce the best and most inspiring Children’s Natural History content in the world.

Using material from extensive NHU archives, green screen technology, specialist on- and off-screen talent as well as inspiring tie-ins with landmark productions, Children’s Natural History has successfully delivered over 320 programmes, equating to 140 hours in just 5 years. This has included such shows as Inside Life, Natural Born Hunters, Barney’s Latin America, Little Big Cat and Deadly 60.

In less than two years the CBBC Series Deadly 60 has become a UK phenomenon. To date 35.5 million people in the UK over the age of 4 have watched the show. Deadly 60 has now given rise to several spin off series, such as Deadly 360, Deadly Top Tens, Deadly 60 On A Mission, Deadly Art, Deadly 60 Bites and the Saturday morning show, Live 'n' Deadly.

The Children's NHU team are also in production with a ground-breaking, ambitious new series for CBeebies, Andy's Wild Adventures.

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The NHU and BBC Worldwide

The NHU and BBC Worldwide

The NHU is represented commercially by the BBC Earth brand, one of BBC Worldwide’s leading global brands. Its mission is to inspire audiences globally with the BBC’s outstanding Natural History content, sharing the same values and driving credit back to the BBC.

BBC Earth is constantly seeking new ways to engage people with Natural History and key to this is extending the BBC Earth brand across multiple platforms. By creating a strong brand presence, BBC Worldwide is able to build a strong relationship with audiences, benefitting the license fee payer by maximising the commercial potential of the BBC’s world-leading Natural History content.

Developing theatric and live entertainment platforms is core to this strategy. Last year BBC Earth announced a slate of three films to be created by BBC Earth Films – One Life; Walking with Dinosaurs 3D; and Enchanted Kingdom 3D, working with leading Hollywood talent to bring the most astounding stories from the natural world to the big screen. In live entertainment BBC Earth has partnered with SEGA and GES (Global Experience Specialists) to create groundbreaking new experiences that will immerse audiences in nature.

In just two years the BBC Earth brand has developed to become a fully fledged global brand. The brand has grown across multiple platforms to encompass film, live events and digital entertainment alongside the more traditional brand extensions: books; DVD; Blu-Ray and licensed consumer product. For a new brand BBC Earth is growing at a rapid pace and is proud to be inspiring audiences worldwide with the most incredible stories from the natural world.

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