Mystery, beauty and passion are the key components to making a Natural History film, as demonstrated in the highly successful 'Blue Planet' natural history series by award winning producer Alastair Fothergill.

This winning formula will be used to make an even more ambitious series, Planet Earth - the ultimate portrait of our planet. Not only will this be the most expensive natural history series ever made, but it will break new ground in the use of High Definition cameras for the filming of all footage. For all Topside filming the BBC has chosen to use a number of Panasonic AJ-HDC27FE (Varicam) High Definition Camcorders.

The Panasonic HD Camcorders were the BBC's first choice for shooting all topside footage. As Panasonic's AJ-HDC27 Varicam replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition, it allows BBC DoPs to get the look and feel of film but in a high definition format. The Varicam offers a choice of picture record speeds from 4fps to 60-fps in single-frame increments to achieve the "overcranked" and "undercranked" speed effects in camera, a real must for natural history shooting "as animals do not only move at 25P" .

The BBC will be utilising the fast ISO 800 sensitivity of the camcorder to the full in filming in some of the harshest environments in the world. The new AJ-HDC27FE also features film gamma. Panasonic's new gamma curves, developed specifically to allow the Varicam to reproduce the tonal qualities of film, will allow the BBC to deliver natural shading and rich colours to the final programme as if it had been shot on film.

To complement the Varicams for topside filming the BBC will be using HD Polecams supplied by Panasonic, AK-HC900. The AK-HC900 closely mimics the Varicam in terms of quality and flexibility allowing the BBC to get shots in HD that would have been impossible to achieve with a full size camcorder. The output of the Polecams will be recorded on to the AJ-HD130DC VTR, a half rack size DVCPROHD VTR.

The production team will be utilising the Panasonic Frame Rate Converter (AJ-FRC27) which converts any off speed material back to a 25P signal for post-production. This function is very similar to the process of film allowing a "telecine process" to happen for any speed change effects.

In addition, the team will use the new DVCPROHD VTR, the AJ-HD1700, which will allow a 1080/25P direct from the Varicam rushes. The new VTR is compatible to other HD equipment allowing it to make major contribution in reducing HD production costs.

Produced by the BBC Worldwide and Discovery Channel, the 12 episode series of programmes looks at each of Earth's key habitats and their individual moods, be it the claustrophobic darkness of the Deep Ocean or big skies of the Open Plains. Concentrating on long, powerful sequences, the filming focuses on the elemental forces on land such as weather, glaciers and volcanoes.

Covering many different climates and environments from the World's rainforests and jungles, across the Great Plains to deserts and volcanoes, this will be a challenging series to make. Rugged, reliable and rigorously tested under harsh conditions, the DVCPROHD range is certainly up to the challenge, offering a cost effective solution without sacrificing any quality.

Ian Lowe from Panasonic U.K comments "The decision by the BBC to work with Varicam on this landmark series, marks a turning point in the use of HD acquisition for Natural History filmmaking, delivering the quality necessary with the creative flexibility and functionality required in actual field use".