- Doug Allan revealed secrets of how BBC makes wildlife films
- He said most small species are filmed in closed conditions
- The cameraman said people felt ‘deceived’ by the trickery
- But he defended the practice, and said the BBC should be open about it
- He was speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote his book
By Rosie Taylor
PUBLISHED:18:32 EST, 8 October 2013
They are the programmes that leave viewers enthralled by the wonders of nature.
But many wildlife scenes in BBC series are faked, a veteran cameraman admits.
In fact, most footage involving small animals is not what it appears, Doug Allan said.
Species ‘smaller than a baby rabbit’ are put in custom-built sets and filmed under controlled conditions, rather than in the wild.
Mr Allan’s revelation comes only two years after Sir David Attenborough’s flagship documentary Frozen Planet was accused of fakery for filming the birth of a polar bear in a zoo rather than in the wild.
The footage was defended at the time by the veteran naturalist, who compared nature documentaries to ‘making movies’.
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But Mr Allan – once described by Sir David as the best cameraman he had worked with – said he understood why people felt ‘deceived’.
He said: ‘I think the BBC didn’t handle it the best. On their website there was a video showing how it was done, but they didn’t quite bring enough attention to it. It wasn’t obvious.’
Mr Allan defended the use of captive animals in wildlife films, so long as producers make it clear to audiences which shots are not gathered in the wild.
‘You can’t make a film about mice just by going out into a meadow and looking at mice,’ he said.
‘You need to introduce them to a safely built set in which they will be happy. There’s a lot of skill in doing that.’
Asked whether cameramen were worried about filming wildlife on sets, he said they ‘have to do and accept it’, adding: ‘Nobody seemed to be bothered by it.’
Mr Allan was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, where he is promoting his book Freeze Frame: A Wildlife Cameraman’s Adventures On Ice.
He said the BBC should have been proud of the way in which it gathered the Frozen Planet footage rather than hiding the explanation on its website.
The sequence showed the new-born polar bears mewling and nuzzling their mother in a cave. Eight million viewers were led to believe the footage was captured by BBC cameramen in harsh sub-zero temperatures.
However, it emerged it was actually shot in a Dutch zoo, using fake snow.
It was interspersed with real shots of the Arctic, while Sir David’s carefully worded narration led viewers to believe the scene was genuine.
The veteran broadcaster, 87, defended the footage at the time, saying: ‘Come on, we were making movies.’
But Mr Allan said the BBC should have flagged up its filming techniques at the end of the programme.
He said: ‘Be proud of it, and then I think people would have felt less deceived. I don’t have a problem with that sort of thing – I did it myself years earlier – but the public, some of the public, chose to think that was fakery.’
Mr Allan was not involved in the polar bear scene and does not film small animals.
‘There will never be another David,’ he said. ‘As long as David is alive, for anyone else to be called “the next David Attenborough” is a kiss of death. The way television works these days, a presenter is doing well if they last more than ten years.
‘On the BBC, you’ll see a lot of new faces that are being tried out. Some are good, some you see once and then bye bye.’
But if anyone is to follow in Sir David’s footsteps, Mr Allan said, it will be Springwatch presenter Chris Packham because he has ‘integrity’ even though he is not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’.
Mr Allan also praised Professor Brian Cox, but said he only ‘came alive’ when talking about space and physics rather than wildlife.
In June, Sir David praised Mr Allan, who has worked with him on Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and Planet Earth.
He said: ‘Capturing animal behaviour in extreme and hostile places takes a very special kind of cameraman and they don’t come more special than Doug Allan.
‘I’ve had the extraordinary good luck of working with him over many years and no one knows the frozen world better than him.’
The BBC has worked for the bankster gansters since they were the people who created it in the first place:
“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”
― T.S. Eliot
I read a few of the comments at the site and its quite stunning the amount of people who prefer the illusion of reality, iow, they want “what their itching ears want to hear.” – Timothy 4:3