Zooming in on animal behaviour

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ss elephants one life / naturepl.com/ NaturePL JUMBO LOVE: Young elephants in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

The challenges which living things face and the amazing ways they overcome them seemed a wonderful subject for a film, say Michael Gunton and Martha Holmes, the directors of One Life.

“The natural world is so full of beautiful and dramatic animals that we felt if they were seen on the big screen they would amaze and delight an audience,” they say.

“We felt our approach was particularly suited to the big screen – getting close and intimate with animals during the most pivotal moments in their lives, as well as focusing on individual characters as they face intense challenges to survive.

“With the filming technology available to us now, we can get our cameras into places that give new and high impact perspectives on the drama of animal survival.

“We wanted to fly, run, swim, hunt and fight alongside our animal stars, letting the audience feel they were right there with the animals, experiencing the drama of their everyday lives.

“We felt this was the perfect time to make the film, for two reasons: partly because the breakthrough in high definition technology with new high-speed and time-lapse photography meant we could film the most extreme and extraordinary animal behaviour for the first time in the most exquisite detail. It was also because as we enter the third millennium and we understand more and more about the way animals live and survive, we’re also understanding more and more clearly that many of the animals in this film are endangered and this may be one of the last opportunities we have left to show the world the complexities and wonders of their lives.

“To make filming One Life possible, the crew had to use newly invented and adapted technology”.

Breakthroughs included:

l Super-high-speed cameras were used to film animal behaviour. The image is not only mesmerisingly beautiful, but it reveals aspects of the animal and its behaviour not normally seen.

l A new piece of equipment dubbed the “yogicam” was developed. Taking the stabilised camera normally used for filming aerial shots and mounting it on a counter-balanced arm in an off-road vehicle, it was used for tracking alongside animals. In this way, the crew were able to walk with elephants, and for the first time give the feeling that the audience was among the herd.

l The crew designed and built a housing for a super-high-speed camera which allowed them to film sailfish attacking a baitball.

“Sailfish swim so fast that it is virtually impossible to see how they catch fish. By slowing the action down 80 times, their technique is revealed.”

l HD Macro cameras reveal intimate details which can’t be seen with the naked eye. It allows the audience to be up close and personal with the animals’ trials and tribulations.


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