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I recently watched the Planet Earth TV series. There are some beautiful shots in the different episodes! And one shot (or one particular type of shot) I'm curious about how they done it.

In the 8th episode "Jungles" (but in many other episodes of the series and also in other documentaries) are some 360 degree time lapse shots of growing plants and mushrooms. We can see a plants growing.

My question: are those (360 degrees) time lapse shots done in a studio or at the particular places on earth (i.e. where the plants are originally resident)? Because in a studio I think the shots are much more easier to accomplish. From my point of view I can't determine the fact where the plants are placed for the shots.

This youtube video is not taken from the Planet Earth tv series, but that are exactly the shots I'm talking about:

  • I'm trying to track it down - but there was a "video diary" section at the end of "the private life of plants" series episodes (or an entire stand alone programme) which showed how the time lapse sequences were made. Lots of green screen and compositing with real environment I'm afraid. Kind of ruined the magic a little. – dav1dsm1th Dec 10 '14 at 23:01
  • Still hunting. Looks like "Life" in 2009 had the sequence I remember (but I think there must be a few dotted around the "video diary" sections). Here's a frustrating clip as, from the dialogue, it's just after the bit we are interested in. – dav1dsm1th Dec 14 '14 at 12:31
  • @dav1dsm1th if you post your collected information as an answer I will accept it :) – Charmin Jan 8 '15 at 21:22
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This video explains the techniques used to create the time-lapse sequences of the BBC Life (2009) series. I'm not sure if the team was the same for the Planet Earth (2006) series, but imagine that the techniques shown (with refinements and technological updates) would be similar.

The (massively oversimplified) approach appears to be:-

  • identify a suitable "real life" scene
  • build a rig for a tracking shot
  • survey the scene and the rig so that the two can be recreated in a studio
  • record the tracking shot (as a background) frame by frame using a DSLR
  • grow the plants that will be used in the final shot
  • film each plant, as it flowers, in its appropriate position in the studio
  • create a final sequence combining all of the individual layers
  • I'll add some screenshots if people think this answer is useful (and would be more useful with some additional work) – dav1dsm1th Jan 12 '15 at 17:59
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I don't know for sure, but I highly suspect those were created in a studio. There are 2 main reasons:

  1. The lighting is consistent. In the real world, the sun moves across the sky and shadows follow it. Clouds make intermittent shadows. The intensity of light changes at different times of day - dawn, noon, sunset, night. (I suppose that the filmmakers COULD have shaded a whole section of the outdoors, and applied artificial lighting.)

  2. If there was even a light breeze outdoors, the plants would have bent a little, and they would appear to shake and shudder in the time-lapse footage. The shots in this video show perfectly-still plants growing.

Also, as a filmmaker myself, I'd much rather have a controlled environment to shoot beautiful footage like this. Outdoors is really unpredictable! (Rain, fog, animals walking through, insects, bird poop landing on your subjects, etc.)

  • 3
    from The Private Life of Plants "Outdoors time-lapse photography presents a unique set of challenges: the varying light and temperatures in particular can cause many problems. To film bluebells under a canopy of beech trees, for example, cameraman Richard Kirby covered them with a thick canvas tent that was lit from within to simulate daylight. He then used a motion-controlled camera to obtain a tracking shot, moving it slightly after each exposure." – dav1dsm1th Dec 10 '14 at 23:18
  • @dav1dsm1th Fantastic! So they WERE outdoors, in their natural location, but with controls for the sun, wind, rain, animals, etc. (which as I said would mess up the shots). You should post this as an Answer, instead of just a comment on my answer! – BrettFromLA Dec 11 '14 at 0:50
  • @dav1dsm1th like BrettFromLA said. Post it as an answer! :-) – Charmin Dec 11 '14 at 11:30

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