The Planet Earth II 360 series allows us to transport our audience to some of the wildest places on our planet.
Can you sum up the Planet Earth II 360 series?
At the Natural History Unit we’re lucky enough to travel to extraordinary places and film some incredible wildlife. We wanted to not only bring footage back for your television screens with Planet Earth II, but give the audience the opportunity to come with us, and experience the natural world for themselves in 360.
How did you approach the creative process?
Whilst this wasn’t our first 360 project, we thrive on innovation and wanted to experiment with what works best for the audience. The landscape of 360 and virtual reality experiences moves so fast and is so rich and diverse at the moment, that the rulebook is still being written and the idea of industry standards just doesn’t exist. We embraced the unknown and analysed each film separately to see what role we wanted the audience to play in the film, and what technology we could use to tell that story.
What were the challenges compared with what you normally do?
Filming in 360 presents a whole host of exciting obstacles that you don’t have to consider for traditional natural history films. Do the crew hide and cross their fingers the action unfolds where it should, or become part of the scene? How do you make use of the 360 space and encourage exploration, whilst focussing the audience on the elements of the environment that tell the story? How do you cut between shots without it feeling jarring? How do you get close-ups or feature sequences of animal behaviour in the ultimate wide-angle, real-time view? How do you make the natural world feel real enough that the audience believe they’re there? Whilst these caused us some headaches, the end results allow for a level of immersion unlike any other medium, and are our best hope to engage people with the natural world.
How was it made?
We used a variety of cameras to capture our 360 worlds, from mainstream multi-camera rigs, to entirely bespoke and stabilised DSLR systems that we had to invent as we went. We then stitched and composited the videos using the Autopano suite, and a combination of After Effects and Premiere. We also worked with BBC R&D to produce 3D Dynamic Binaural sound for some of the films, which allows for a totally natural soundscape that responds to your movements as you navigate the 360 scene.
What do you hope to learn from it being on Taster?
Taster is a fantastic platform for putting innovative and cutting-edge projects right at the front line for feedback. Whilst streaming 360 video is steadily becoming more mainstream on Facebook and YouTube, there are a host of technical issues in the production process and the platforms and user experience. We’re hopeful that the ability to transport the audience to another place and feel a part of a story in such a powerful way, will only improve as more people discover and embrace the technology.