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A Perfect Planet Producer Huw Cordey says acclaimed docuseries is ‘a celebration of our planet’

Huw Cordey says the idea behind A Perfect Planet was "to show how natural forces, the weather, the ocean currents, the volcanoes and the sun, how they shape our planet's diversity."

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
March 8, 2021 4:22:11 pm
huw cordey, A Perfect Planet ,A Perfect Planet producer Huw Cordey says we should cherish our planet. (Photo: A Perfect Planet)

BBC’s A Perfect Planet is a five-part series about the natural world, fragile ecosystems of earth, and the challenges the planet faces from, well, humans. Our modern lifestyles are based on rapacious harvesting of natural resources resulting in deforestation, overpopulation and so on. We have made sure that in a 100 years, we may well be on the brink of destruction.

A Perfect Planet is a stunningly shot and deftly edited docu-series. It not only enthrals the viewer but makes them examine their ways of life and the role they can play in preserving the natural world. It helps that Sir David Attenborough returns as a narrator, and his voice and diction remains as comforting as ever. He can read a telephone directory and still have our attention. But the real credit for this documentary must go to those who actually captured the footage.

We sat down with producer Huw Cordey and talked about the idea behind the series, how different it is from the documentaries he has worked in the past, how the techniques to capture the natural world have evolved over the years, and so on.

Excerpts:

What was the idea behind A Perfect Planet?

The idea behind the series was to show how natural forces- the weather, the ocean currents, the volcanoes and the sun shape our planet’s diversity. So it’s kind of marrying earth sciences (how the earth works), with a sort of classic blue chip natural history — intimate animal stories.

How is it different from other wildlife documentaries that you’ve worked on in the past?

I’ve worked in this industry for 20-30 years, that includes many of the biggest Natural History series like Planet Earth. What we’ve tended to do is focus on habitats in the jungles, mountains, oceans, and animal behaviour. What really excited me about this was the combination that I just mentioned, of Earth Sciences and blue chip natural history — nobody’s done that before. It’s a very fresh narrative, in which we try to give an understanding as to how our planet works, while still operating in the traditional field of amazing animal stories and behaviour.

How has filming animals changed from when you first started producing these documentaries?

Animal behaviour itself obviously doesn’t change. A lion still hunts a wildebeest beast today, just the same way as it did 10,000 years ago. So what changes is the way we actually capture those images. And it’s a very inventive and a futuristic-looking part of the television industry, because we’ve got to keep presenting these stories in new and exciting ways. And technology gives us that.

For example, when I was doing Planet Earth, gyrostabilised cameras came into our field of view cameras, and they could be put on helicopters, and had long lenses. So we could be far away from the animals, but very gyrostabilised, so they didn’t bounce around. We got these incredible sequences that nobody had ever seen before, from the air, without disturbing the animals. The series was able to benefit from a new technology. To come back to A Perfect Planet, I would say drone technology, for example, has really come into its own over the course of our project. We started filming this series in 2016. In the project before this one, you could get a drone in the air for just a few minutes, you know, and it was quite noisy, they were quite big, they disturbed animals.

A Perfect Planet A pair of wildebeest run in golden light as the sun rises over the plains of the Serengeti. (Photo: BBC One)

Now you can put one in the air for half an hour, it’s very small, doesn’t make much noise, and you can get much closer to the animals without any disturbance. So it allows you to present animal behaviour in completely new and fresh ways. And cameras get better. There are night cameras now that can film under moonlight and the footage still turns out to be colourful. All that makes a massive difference.

What can be done on a personal level to preserve the fragile balance that underpins the Earth?

Yes, that’s the message we want to get out. These natural forces are fragile, and they are being destabilised by humans. And it’s simply because we’re burning fossil fuels. So we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, we need to move towards a greener economy with more recyclable energy. This is something that every single person can take part in. People think ‘What can I do’, but really, everybody can make a difference. They can change their diet, walk more, take bicycles to work, not waste as much. Not buy as many things. We can pressure companies and governments to move to a more sustainable society. Every single one of us has an opportunity to do something, no matter how small it is. The movement needs to start at an individual level.

A Perfect Planet A wave crashes on the shore of Fernandina Island in the Galapagos. (Photo: BBC One)

What would be your message for the Indian audiences?

The message to the India is the same as to everybody else: this is a celebration of our planet. Marvel at this incredible world we live on where things are work so seamlessly and beautifully. We have this amazing planet and it’s the only planet in the world in this in the universe, as far as we know, with life, so we should cherish it.

A Perfect Planet premieres in India on March 8 at 9 PM on Sony BBC Earth.

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