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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 18:59 GMT
Camera infiltrates animal world
Presenter Steve Leonard with the eagle and its camera

A new TV programme sets new standards in wildlife filmmaking, say its makers, by using spy technology to infiltrate the private lives of animals.

The show, called Animal Camera, makes use of innovative camera, sound, tracking and surveillance technology.

Series highlights include footage from tiny miniature cameras strapped to birds and a sequence that solves the mystery of what baboons do at night.

The series has been made by the BBC's Natural History Unit in Bristol.

In the first programme, a miniature camera takes viewers on board a golden eagle as it soars through the air.

Lightweight camera

A bee was fitted with a tiny radio transponder

The eagle sequence was filmed using a miniature camera weighing just 25 grams. The device was adapted for the series from a type of cameras used in mobile phones.

The camera was attached to a special lightweight harness.

Scientists also tracked a bumblebee using a tiny radar transponder on the insect, to find out how they navigate.

The filmmakers were able to spy on baboons in a cave where they congregate at night.

"The baboons were able to carry on with their business completely unaware that we were watching them," said series producer Peter Bassett.

The baboons were able to carry on with their business completely unaware that we were watching them
Peter Bassett, series producer
"There was only one entrance to the cave that was like a manhole and after that there was a 12-foot drop," Andrew Murray, producer on Animal Camera told BBC News Online.

The crew ventured into the claustrophobic cave during the day to rig it with infrared cameras that could capture the baboons as they moved around in the darkness.

"We were able to notice that they use grunts to find out where their family members were, to keep together," said Mr Bassett.

The programme makers also set out to capture the fastest events in the animal world captured using ultra-slow-motion cameras.

Fast moves

ANIMALS ON FILM
The filmmakers captured stunning images of the animals

The contenders included a salamander that extends its tongue faster than a blink of an eye, a mantis shrimp that uses fast karate chops to smash up its prey and trap-jaw ants that snap their jaws faster than the eye can see.

High-speed film cameras used to be used for this task, but the electronic shutter speeds of high-speed video cameras used in the series are superior said Mr Murray.

With film, cameramen also had to anticipate when the animal was going to perform the required action, which meant part of the action might be missed.

Snail, BBC
The programme gives the cameras to the animals
With high-speed video, the camera is always capturing images and will record footage from four seconds prior to the cameraman hitting the record button.

One major challenge in the second programme was staking out a jungle on Barro Colorado island in Panama.

Multi-flash cameras were used to catch bats in the act of hunting and ultrasound micropones listen in on their sounds, which are not audible to human ears. Radio telemetry systems were used to track tagged animals such as the rarely observed ocelot.

Animal Camera is on Wednesdays at 2030 GMT on BBC One.




SEE ALSO:
'I stalk animals - with a camera'
03 Oct 02  |  UK News



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