There are lessons to be learned in "The Making of 'Frozen Planet,'" the latest episode of the groundbreaking series. In a rare look behind the scenes, the cameras focus on the directors and crew as they brave harsh Arctic and Antarctic conditions over a four-year period to film this multi-part documentary.
You Can't Fool Mother Nature.
There is a certain arrogance amongst filmmakers that lets them think they simply can blend into the background, especially while filming something as innocuous as the migration of the Adelie penguins . Cameraman Mark Smith, for instance, spent four months with another crew member in a hut the size of a shipping container. Their mission was to document the entire lifecycle of these penguins.
As "Frozen Planet" reveals, however, Mother Nature appeared angry with these two men from the first moment they arrived. After setting up camps, the winds increased to nearly 100 mph, forcing the men to stay in their hut for days. Luckily, their equipment had been lashed to a rock, which kept it from blowing away.
"Cabin Fever," a bonus video on the Discovery Channel website, shows a tired and frustrated Smith talking about the penguins. After living with these aquatic birds for months, Smith likens them to American and British drivers as they waddle down different sides of the "Penguin Super-Highway."
In the same video, Chadden Hunter, director of the Emperor Penguin segments, admits that their penguins outsmarted them. Even with waterproof cameras mounted on poles, the penguins led Hunter and his crew on a merry chase around the frozen landscape. Frustrated, the humans had to suit up and dive into the frozen waters to get the footage they needed.
The Beauty of Time-Lapse Photography
"Frozen Planet" captures events on film that are both beautiful and deadly. The episode entitled "Winter" shows the formation of a "brinicle," an event that occurs when super-cold brine sinks and freezes sea water on contact. Using time-lapse photography, the crew documents how the brinicles resemble icy fingers as they reach down to the ocean bottom, ensnaring starfish and other slow-moving creatures.
Are the Humans Here for Dinner?
The various "Frozen Planet" crews actually placed themselves in harm's way, whether accidentally or on purpose. While filming polar bears in the Artic, director Miles Barton and his crew stayed safely on their boat. Using a mounted, stabilized camera, the crew filmed a male polar bear hunting during the warmer spring months. In this case, the hunting male virtually ignores the humans.
While trying to document a female and her cubs, on the other hand, Barton and the team appear to be on the menu. Instead of ignoring the cameras, the hungry mother polar bear approaches the boat aggressively in the hopes of finding some food for herself and her two cubs.
"Frozen Planet" continues on the Discovery Channel on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET.