BBC Natural History Unit to embrace 4K

Written by Andy Stout

Shutterstock/RedSharkWildlife in 4K

Yet another milestone on the 4k roadmap was passed last week when the BBC revealed that it was working on its first 4k originated documentary, Survival

The six-part series, due for transmission, in 2014 is being produced by the BBC's world-renowned Natural History Unit. Few details about its production have emerged – indeed, the announcement rather crept out following a screening for potential buyers and co-production partners – but according to a report in the Independent newspaper at least the screening featured some spectacular footage of a meerkat colony in the Kalahari captured in 4k via Steadicam which "delighted" the audience.

"New reality"

NHU creative director, Mike Gunton, was quoted as saying: "There's a new reality which those images give. I think it makes the images more engaging. You feel you can almost touch them and get into the heads of the animals."

Gunton went on to say that he thought 4k gave the images a more cinematic look, though he also expressed slight dismay at how the size of the files slowed down the post production process.

Content future-proofing

Following a recent narrative overhaul by the BBC on all its wildlife projects, the series has a "high concept" and will follow the six ages of man as seen through animal lives, most of which will involve some degree of trial and tribulation. But it's implications stretch much further than simply being the latest high profile BBC nature documentary. It shows that 4k is now a serious consideration for future-proofing content. It shows that the international market is looking to 4k for blue chip programming. It showcases the robustness of the equipment (wildlife filming traditionally being one of the most demanding environments for kit there is). And it hints that we're rapidly getting to the tipping point where any broadcaster or production looking to a) buy new camera equipment or b) produce anything of international note will at the very least be thinking carefully about 4k.

Few things are more expensive to produce than wildlife documentaries, and the BBC Natural History Unit’s output is considered the gold standard by which all else is measured. It's choice of 4k is a hugely significant point in the format’s journey to the mainstream.

Tags: Production

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