The Planet Earth series of documentaries dazzled viewers everywhere when they debuted in 2006, and the announcement of Planet Earth 2 in ultra high definition was definite reason for celebration. The second batch of episodes has already debuted in the U.K., and Brits have gotten to hear naturalist narrator David Attenborough back in action. Evidently, Planet Earth 2 airing in UHD doesn't mean that Attenborough can't use old school techniques to record his commentary. He had this to say about how he syncs his voice with the footage:
You work to picture by using, actually I use VHS. Move backwards and forwards until you get the right words. It may take you up to a week to get the words absolutely right, and then you should be able to record a one-hour program in two hours.
The footage of animals and environments most of us will never get to see in person is the most extraordinary aspect of the Planet Earth series, but David Attenborough's narration is a big part of why Planet Earth is such a success. He guides viewers on a fantastic journey to all corners of the planet and introduces us to creatures in their natural habitats. Whether we're watching rival gangs of hyenas or snakes chasing lizards or antelopes struggling to survive, Attenborough is there to guide us.
Personally, I wouldn't have guessed that anybody would use VHS to script a series that was shot in ultra high definition. David Attenborough obviously knows what he's doing by this point in the narration game. If VHS is what it takes for him to so clearly and precisely convey information to viewers, then good for him for using it. After all, documentary narration isn't the same as scripted TV narration or even film narration. The Planet Earth 2 crew can't change the source material to fit a script; the script has to be written to the facts of the footage, and it can't be easy to come up with the right words at just the right moment for a project as grand in scale as Planet Earth. Once he figures out the timing, it makes sense that he'd only need a couple of hours to get the actual recording done.
David Attenborough shared his VHS trick in a video on the BBC One Facebook page. To see what else he has to say about what goes on behind the scenes at Planet Earth 2, check out the rest of the video for yourself:
Planet Earth 2 made its BBC debut on November 6, 2016. Luckily for those of us living across the pond in the U.S., we don't have to wait too long for the episodes to make it to BBC America. The first episode will premiere on BBC America on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The premiere broke ratings records in the U.K.; we'll have to wait and see if the same can happen in the U.S. come January. Take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else you can catch on the small screen in the new year.