Technological advances in aerial photography have had an enormous impact on wildlife filmmaking. Aerials give a perspective not normally seen, put animals in their wider context and reveal behaviour that until recently could never be filmed

Aerial shots showcase beautiful landscapes and help put plants and animals into their wider natural context. Taking to the air in Antarctica, the Frozen Planet team used heligimbal (stabilised aerial camera system) technology on airplanes to capture the dramatic scenery in Antarctica and retrace Scott’s epic south pole journey.

Getting such high quality aerial shots that aren’t wobbly and don’t scare the wildlife below with the sound of helicopter blades or propellers has been very challenging, until recently.

The development of heligimbals with powerful lenses has revolutionised what wildlife filmmakers can do in terms of aerials. Their use in filming animals was pioneered by the BBC, who found it better for the welfare of animals and allows behaviour true to nature.

The camera systems are mounted on aircraft, and enable filmmakers to show dynamic natural phenomenon on a grand scale, as well as some kinds of behaviour – like pack hunting – that cannot be fully understood from the ground.

Why we use archive

In Natural History programming, we sometimes augment our sequences with footage that was originally shot for other productions. We are always conscious of the need to manage budgets on our projects carefully.

Sharing or re-using footage is one of the ways we ensure the licence fee payer gets the best value for money, and enables us to use our budgets to maximise the amount of truly extraordinary, new animal behaviour and natural phenomena in our series.

Planet Earth was the first series to take full advantage of the potential of this technology which they used to capture a sequence of wild dogs hunting, a clip of which is below.

Drones are a technology developed by the military, but now available commercially. Thanks to the miniature stabilisation systems slung under drones they can shoot smooth aerial shots from just off the ground to several hundred metres high.

They can fly into ravines and between trees, places that would be inaccessible to a helictoper. They do have their limitations though, as the Wild Brazil team found out below.

As the technology of the drones – and the miniature cameras that can be used with them – improves, the potential for filming truly wild animals in their natural habitat increases.