March 15th, 2007 | Tags:

by Dara Klatt

Among predators and prey in nature, harsh, relentless battles are fought each day. Two vastly different National Geographic Channel specials take a highdefinition journey to capture nature up close at its most primitive and instinctual.

A Man Among Wolves presents the unique story of Shaun Ellis, a man who has given up everything to take a daring and unorthodox approach to understanding wolves’ every move — raising a pack of wolves in captivity by living with them … as a wolf, teaching them by example how to survive in the wild. In this one-hour special, Shaun immerses himself in a pack after a captive wolf abandons her litter of pups, living and behaving like them, howling and licking, even eating carcass meat like them.

The program follows every step of the wolf pups’ incredible upbringing — from their first howling lesson and eating meat from Shaun’s mouth to their growing independence and aggression during mealtimes, eventually even forcing Shaun to accept a more submissive role in the pack.

A Man Among Wolves producer Bernard Walton used the Panasonic Varicam to virtually “overcrank” some of the shots to give the show more of a real film look. “HD was surprisingly good and gave us the quality we really needed. It stood up well in all kinds of lighting conditions — from rain to sun- shine,” he said. “Although we were only limited to 60 fps, it was the right speed to get the slow motion we needed for this program. The facial behavior of both Shaun and the wolves was much clearer, such as the howling, the snarling at mealtime and the growling. The details of the wolves’ features, such as the hair and fur, were incredible,” said Walton.

Planet Carnivore goes deep inside the lives of superpredators. The first two episodes focused on an African lioness and a great white shark. The last two include: Planet Carnivore: Polar Bears featuring an arctic polar bear, “Binne,” and Planet Carnivore: King Bear, with an Alaskan brown bear, “Custa.” Narrated by Alec Baldwin, Planet Carnivore divulges Binne’s and Custa’s dramatic stories and their gripping daily struggle for survival.

Through raw and riveting footage, stark imagery and compelling drama, audiences will learn how each carnivore’s biological imperative shapes the lives of the other creatures that share their domain. What would their ecosystem be without them? And what are their daily struggles for survival in the battlefield of life as they know it?

Series producer Sue Houghton said that viewers will see details on the predators in HD that they wouldn’t see if the production team had used standard-definition cameras. “HD sharpens up the images and captures subtleties. In the first two episodes, with HD it’s possible to see expression in the lions’ golden eyes and drops of saliva from their jaws. Underwater, HD enables images to ‘clean up,’ and it enhances the shark’s rough skin, as well as the movement of its gills — all in beautiful, deep-blue water.”

She continued, “For the last two episodes, HD allowed us to capture stunning images of polar bears and the arctic foxes in the arctic, and in Katmai, Alaska, HD enabled the team to clearly distinguish between different bears in a way that standard def could not.”

With HD showing the predator battles up close, Houghton has some words of advice: ”Check out the teeth!”  

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