Polar Bears International

1/9/2017 2:26:42 AM

Behind the Scenes with BBC Two

By Geoff York, PBI Senior Director of Conservation

What does it take to broadcast a three-part live television series from the shores of Hudson Bay to London? Quite a lot, actually! PBI was honored to work with the production crew from BBC Two, a channel that broadcasts within the UK and packages successful programs to a global audience.

Planning for the series, Arctic Live, took nearly two years as the core team laid the groundwork for the story, investigated locations, and built the necessary relationships. Typically, a BBC production of this size involves a field crew of over 70 professionals. Given the choice to locate the show on the tundra near Churchill, in the Wildlife Management Area adjacent to Wapusk National Park, logistical constraints only allowed for a crew of 34.

The upshot: half the people needed for three days of live broadcasting were tasked with the work of a full team. The BBC crew took over several houses in town to accommodate staff and converted Churchill’s 10-pin bowling alley into a temporary broadcast studio. PBI’s BJ Kirschhoffer worked alongside BBC engineers to enhance our existing network, allowing live feeds from a roving studio out in the WMA. Easy, right? Not at all.

The field team consisted of 10 staff members including two technical engineers, a sound engineer, four camera operators, a director, and two presenters or hosts. The team equipped Buggy One with a serious addition of technologies that allowed it to act as a mobile hub, directing live feeds from our back deck. A second mobile Tundra Buggy® followed the action and kept live bears on camera throughout the broadcast.

Coupled with BJ and I onboard, working conditions were definitely cramped, but all quickly became adept at delicately dancing around one another and some very expensive equipment. In addition, the hosts interviewed our chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, as well as Dr. Andrew Derocher of the University of Alberta and a scientific advisor to PBI. Our two teams meshed as one due to the relaxed personalities of all aboard. By the time the last broadcast wrapped up, we had a great variety of weather, excellent bear viewing, and all the technology worked—a success all around!

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