As satisfying as these big new sweeping HD nature series on cable are, one thing that gets to me is how often they slow the action down so often, to better capture and extend the grandeur.
Great. It looks smashing. But does it give a very good idea of how fast these animals really travel in real life? You begin to think that slow-mo is an actual option in the natural world.
“You have to use slow motion as a tool and device for inspiration and for illumination,” says David Hamlin, senior producer for National Geographic television, which premiered its big “Great Migrations” tonight. “Otherwise it does become gratuitous or overblown.”
Hamlin, speaking at the TV Critics press tour in August, said it’s used in the seven part series very strategically.
“These guys provided remarkable footage for to us manage in the editing room. And then you have to use it judiciously for maximum narrative impact as well as deconstructing behaviors and reveal things for people that they haven’t seen before. It is a remarkable show for science, for narrative purposes, and inspiration.
A principal cameraman for the series, Andy B. Casagrande IV provided an example that also involved fellow cinematographer Robert Poole.
“Bob and I were shooting that cheetah sequence where you see the zebra trying to stomp the cheetah cub,” he says. “I was shooting it in slow motion. Bob was shooting it in real-time, and we both thought the cheetah cub was killed. It wasn’t until after we reviewed the footage and saw the little cheetah cub come out from the tuft of grass.
“We both were kind of teary-eyed,” he says. “And since cheetahs, obviously, are not in the best state, with regard to their numbers, so it is an amazing tool to deconstruct epic moments that you would otherwise miss with the speed of what we really see.”
“Great Migrations” continues Sunday nights on National Geographic Channel.