One of the things that makes watching wildlife documentary programmes so rewarding is that it’s here you see the real cutting edge of broadcast television. These international co-productions are such reliable ratings hits with an extremely long-tail shelf life that they attract vast amounts of funding and can thus throw equally vast amounts of resources at the screen.
Shot over 4 years and featuring footage from 125 different expeditions, the BBC’s Blue Planet II is a case in point. 16 years ago, the original Blue Planet shot 16mm footage from helicopters; its sequel utilised drones with 4K camera payloads.
Shot on a variety of camera platforms and graded on Baselight within an ACES colour pipeline, from December 10 viewers (in the UK at least and for 30 days) will be able to see it in its full glory too as it becomes the first series the BBC will stream completely in 4K HDR. All seven episodes will be available in Ultra HD Hybrid-Log Gamma format — a significant step up from the four minutes of Planet Earth II footage that was made available last December — though the BBC still tends to use the word ‘trial’ in relation to such matters.
For those that can’t see it on iPlayer — and rights being what they are, that will be most people outside the UK — an Ultra HD Blu-ray version will be available from January 15. This has been mastered in the PQ format.
About the only downside in all this is that the iPlayer release loses the 5.1 mix and will only be available in stereo. Combining 5.1, HDR and Ultra HD is apparently one on the list for next time.