Nature cinematographers have a messy job. Weeks of trudging through the hot, sticky jungle often yields them just a few minutes of precious footage — but for the crew of Netflix’s docuseries “Our Planet,” the payoff is sweet.
“It’s been a slog, but it’s been worth it,” Matt Aeberhard, cinematographer for the “Jungles” episode of “Our Planet,” says in an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip obtained by TheWrap. You can watch the full clip above.
The nature series, narrated by legendary English broadcaster and nature historian David Attenborough, showcases footage of some of the planet’s rarest and most breathtaking wildlife.
“Working in a hot, steamy, mosquito-infested jungle is testing for anyone. But from a filming perspective, this particular patch of rainforest really is hell,” Attenborough says in the clip. “The orangutans spend all their time up in the canopy, never coming to the ground, and are constantly on the move. So the big problem will be keeping up with them, and getting a clean shot through all the foliage.”
In the clip, Aeberhard can be seen setting up camera equipment to try to catch the orangutans on film. The shot to set-up ratio, he says, is 25 to 1 — that means that for every 25 camera set-ups he does, which includes trudging through the jungle with heavy equipment and “hauling, scratching shins, going up to my waist in water,” only one results in a useable shot.
Most of the time, “we end up with just nothing,” Aeberhard admits. Another scene shows him waist deep in a mud puddle, shaking his head and saying “this is ridiculous.”‘
From the creators of “Planet Earth” and in partnership with World Wildlife Fund, “Our Planet” was filmed over four years in 50 countries, with over 600 crew members capturing more than 3,500 filming days. Per Netflix, the series focuses on “the breadth of the diversity of habitats around the world, from the remote Arctic wilderness and mysterious deep oceans to the vast landscapes of Africa and diverse jungles of South America.”
Aeberhard is credited with filming the flamingos in Lake Natron, Tanzania in the series’ first episode, “One Planet,” as well as the birds of paradise and orangutan sequences in the “Jungles” episode, seen in the clip.
“Progress has been painfully slow so far, but often a month-long shoot and boil down to just a few minutes of action … their luck can change in an instant,” Attenborough says.
“Our Planet” is currently streaming on Netflix.