The day Springwatch rolled into town
A few feathered heads turned yesterday as truckloads of TV technology were unloaded into a wild and beautiful corner of the Norfolk countryside.The countless cameras, mixing desks and miles of cables struck a stark contrast with their serene surroundings.
A few feathered heads turned yesterday as truckloads of TV technology were unloaded into a wild and beautiful corner of the Norfolk countryside.
The countless cameras, mixing desks and miles of cables struck a stark contrast with their serene surroundings.
But they signalled that another three weeks of fame had almost arrived for the inhabitants of Pensthorpe Nature Reserve as preparations continued for the return of the Springwatch programme.
The reserve, near Fakenham, has become a hive of activity as crews set about turning it into a vast studio ready for this year's first live broadcast of the BBC's flagship nature show on May 25.
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Marquees and portable buildings have been set up to house editing suites and a function room is being converted into a production gallery, where video feeds from 45 on-site cameras will be mixed.
Meanwhile, a room in a derelict barn will be decked out with more cameras and monitors to become the main studio - with the iconic sofa for presenters Kate Humble and Chris Packham, pictured below, due to be delivered this weekend.
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Springwatch director David Weir said the scale of the outside broadcast was bigger than most major sporting events, with 100 people working on the show when filming starts.
“It is not on a par with Wimbledon but it is certainly bigger than a football match or a golf tournament based on the number of cameras and the size of the infrastructure,” he said. “It is a huge, huge team effort which lasts throughout the year.
“But it is very hit and miss. We have to put out so many cameras because half of them won't be used. That is the way it has to work - the wildlife writes the script.”
Mr Weir said one of the challenges was the distance between the planned “in-vision” locations - the furthest being by the River Wensum, a 10-minute walk from the studio.
“If I want to move people between locations during the live filming it means I have to be able to play a piece of film long enough to allow them to get there,” he said. “There is a lot of logistics to be thought through.”
Engineering manager Ian Dewar said: “Because the park is spread over such a wide area we need to cover the stars of the show, which is the wildlife. We can put the people anywhere we want to, but we cannot move the animals.”
The team has also installed hundreds of ducts to allow cables to cross pathways without posing a risk to the reserve's paying visitors.
“It was a deliberate policy to come to a public venue so the public could have more access to what we were doing,” said Mr Weir. “It has not caused us any problems at all.”
Wildlife producer Nigel Bean said he hoped a series of nest boxes - set up last February with dummy cameras attached - would attract breeding kestrels in time for this year's show. “Birds of prey like kestrels are very susceptible to changes in the appearance of their home,” he said. “We watch the boxes and, if birds take up residence, we swap the dummies for the real cameras. We are always on the lookout for new types of birds but often the most interesting stories come from common garden birds doing something you did not expect.”
Springwatch will be screened on BBC2 for three weeks from May 25 at 8pm, Mondays-Thursdays.