Thursday, 14 February 2013

Science in the Arts and Media

This is a series of talks that examines the relationship between biology, the media and the arts. Previous talks have had Nick baker discuss the role of the presenter in communicating science to a wider audiences. Rebecca Stott (author of Ghost Walk and the Coral Thief) examined the role of the author in translating the history of science into fiction. While professor Nicky Clayton talked of how her research on corvid behaviours coupled with her passion for the tango led her to work with Ballet Rambert to develop a contemporary ballet based on the works of Charles Darwin.
This latest series will examine in detail how science and television interact. The natural history programs that we all love are fabulous spectacles which bring some of the biospheres most intriguing stories right  into our living rooms but how is this accomplished. 

The first talk that occurred on 31st of January featured an ex Plymouth student Hugh Pearson who now works as a film producer  making natural history programs for the BBC. Hugh Talked about the making of the BBC series Africa for which he produced two of the programs.  He discussed the logistics of getting to the site and the often basic conditions under which they lived.  As an example for the turtle scene they had booked a chalet close to the beach with beds, shower and toilet but discovered on arrival that there was no running water.  Hugh also described the extensive research undertaken to find the new and interesting stories, the building of a storyboard and the detailed planning of every shot that they needed before they left the UK. Capturing exceptional wildlife on film is one thing but turning this into a narrative that will arrest, entertain and inform the widest possible audience is a neat trick that Hugh has come to excel at. At the end of the talk he received a barrage of questions from an eager audience. The university bookseller sold copies of the Africa book which Hugh signed after his talk and finally escaped at 9.30 to indulge in a well-earned beer.
 The second talk in this series will be from John Walters, who is a media wrangler. Not sure what this is?  He arranges for things to happen in front of the camera. When moths are filmed just as they emerge from their pupal cocoons or a flock of starlings is required to fly across a setting sun it is people like John who have arranged it or knew when and where it would happen. John has worked for a large number of  TV shows including Spring and Autumn watch, Bill Oddie's birdwatching program and David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth. John is an natural historian, entomologist, writer and artist who spends most of his time in the field. He will discuss the problems of locating his quarry and ensuring that the cameras are there to film the desired behaviour. He will talk about his work with the media on Tuesday 19th February at 6.00 pm in the Devonport lecture theatre, Plymouth University.

On March 4th Hugh Miller will examine the making of wildlife programs from the cameraman's perspective. He will discuss how he translates the storyboard produced by the production team into the images that finally appear on our television screens. Patience, endurance and being happy with one’s own company are essential qualities for a camera man. Hugh will talk about his career as  a cameraman and his involvement with such programs as Frozen Planet, the recent Africa series and the new series that will be shown in March Wild Arabia. This talk will start at 6.30pm in lower Sherwell lecture theatre.

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