The BBC has commissioned a unique device to capture 3D footage of small creatures in the wild for natural history series Hidden Kingdom.

The ‘straightscope’ is a snorkel-type system with a wide-angle lens that attaches to the front of a camera to obtain extreme close-ups.

It is being built by optical specialist Peter Parks, who devised an original version for 2003 3D Imax fi lm Bugs!, subsequently winning a lifetime achievement Academy Award for his technological contribution to film-making.

“To depict the point of view of creatures the size of an ant, we needed a system that has a much smaller front end than a mirror rig,” said series producer and 3D director Mark Brownlow.

“The snorkel can ‘kiss’ the subject to make it look huge but the background remains in focus.”

Onsight is supplying a range of additional equipment including Freestyle rigs, Red Epics, twin Iconix mini-cams on a jib and a pair of Nikon D800 D-SLRs on a Hurricane rig for timelapse sequences.

The production is using a pair of Phantom Miro cameras fi lming at 1,000 frames a second for high-speed photography of chipmunks in North American forests.

“It reveals extraordinary, Matrixlike detail of the chipmunks fighting each other,” said Brownlow. “I don’t believe this has been seen before and it’s an experience that is not the same viewed in 2D. I want to push the throttle on the 3D and make it almost interactive.”

The 3 x 60-minute 2D series and 50-minute 3D single tracks groups of small animals including scorpions, beetles and marmosets in environments such as the Sonoran desert and Rio’s favelas.

BBC Worldwide is underwriting the BBC Natural History Unit and RTL co-production, which is scheduled for completion by November 2013.