Monday, 13 March 2006

Planet Earth

Planet Earth
There is one form of art that is usually overlooked, because it only becomes apparent when it isn't handled properly: film editing. How many viewers have watched BBC TV's latest wildlife masterpiece and thought "What a magnificent piece of editing"? At least one viewer has.
The widlife photography is superb, as one would expect, and there is technical innovation in the new spy cameras being used to catch wildlife dramas from the air. The script - read with gentle authority by Sir David Attenborough - is refreshingly sparse; it tells you just what you wanted to know without additional blather. The unobtrusive score rises at the most appropriate moments to emphasize the visuals, if they require emphasis.
The initial two programmes of the series have produced at least two world firsts in wildlife cinematography: African hunting dogs seen hunting from the air, showing how the pack splits up to tackle its prey from different directions, and a snow leopard in full pursuit of its prey down a precipitous mountainside.
But all of this would fall apart at the seams without the guiding artistry of a first class film editor: Martin Elsbury. He has taken miles of disparate footage and transformed it into a coherent whole. Effortlessly his editing glides from one breathtaking landscape to another, from one wildlife clash to another, from snow to fire, from mountain peaks to a panda in a cave nursing her cub, and always the camera is panning in the right direction or the animals are facing the right way. The only jarring moment occurs when a great white shark explodes from the depths to catch a seal, and this is just how it should be, reflecting as it does the shock of a surprise attack.
If Mr Elsbury doesn't garner top awards for his brilliant editing of Planet Earth, the industry is as unseeing as the public in general and, dare I say it, as the critics.


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