The BBC Natural History Unit (NHU) will start filming its most expensive natural history series ever this month and nearly all of it will be shot in HD, writes Sam Espensen.
Planet Earth is a four-way co-production between NHU, Discovery US, Japan's NHK and BBC Worldwide.
The series will be 11 x 60-minutes, with filming in more than 300 locations, at a total budget of£13.2m. The BBC is providing a third of the budget.
Executive producer Alastair Fothergill said the series will be "the ultimate portrait of the planet, capturing the elemental spirit of different habitats. We did a lot of research asking why The Blue Planetwas successful, and found that the audience thought it epic and revelatory, so we want to do the whole planet in this style."
The decision to shoot on HD came out of filming The Blue Planet, where the team used the Sony HDcam for some underwater shots. They were impressed with the results and decided the whole series will be shot in HD with all the underwater sequences of Planet Earthfilmed on Sony's new HDW-750p HDcam.
Fothergill said: "It's got a colour viewfinder, particularly good for underwater because we need to colour balance at different depths. It also has an option that allows us to permanently record the previous eight seconds in a loop before pressing the record button."
Underwater cameraman Peter Scoones added: "Different parameters apply to underwater than to the surface. A colour viewfinder and colour control are very important."
Scoones's company, Underwater Visual Systems, is supplying specially made underwater HDcam camera housings for the series. Broadcast equipment sales company Top Teks is supplying all the HD camera equipment, plus service and support, and Fothergill stressed that "the support and commitment offered by Sony and Top Teks has been a major factor in choosing the cameras".
A 35mm theatrical version of Planet Earth will also be made.
As yet no presenter or director has been announced for the series. The first five episodes of Planet Earthare due to air on the BBC in 2005 and the second six in 2006.