Snow Cats and Me: high-end TV wildlife series innovates with Sony BRC remote cameras
Presenting an intimate natural portrait
Screening for the first time by BBC2 over Christmas 2019, Snow Cats & Me tracks some of the world’s most elusive and beautiful cats as they’re rewilded after a life in captivity. To make it possible, the series’ producers turned to Sony BRC Series PTZ remote cameras as an ideal tool to capture unique close-up footage of these rare mammals.
Produced by Oak Island Films and Hello Halo TV, the two-part series pushes creative and technical boundaries to present an intimate portrait of animals in the wild. “The way we’ve used remote cameras on this production has been really innovative” says Ted Oakes, Managing Director of Oak Island Films who produced the two-part programme with Hello Halo TV. “This was a tricky challenge: the Sony BRC cameras helped us capture amazing footage that expresses the unique character of these beautiful animals in their natural environment.”
BRC remote cameras capture close-up footage
Shot over several weeks in a remote Russian forest, the project presented some unusual challenges to Series Producer Jonny Young:
“When we first heard that we’d be filming these famously shy and elusive cats in dense undergrowth in a Russian forest, our hearts sank” recalls Jonny. “Added to that, we were told by the scientist in charge that these formerly captive cats were being rehabilitated back to the wild – and we’d need to stay well away lest human contact continued to harm them.”
“We needed a creative solution to get intimate footage of the cats in an enclosure that was a huge forest site full of long grass, bushes and trees. Through our production kit supplier Visual Impact in Bristol, we asked Sony how we could remotely film lynx in 4K and HD – but from a distance of 50m away through the trees!”
Stunning pictures in a challenging environment
“Sony suggested its BRC series remote PTZ (pan tilt zoom) cameras for the project” says Jonny. “While they’re normally used in a clean, dry studio environment, we needed a reliable 4K camera that would not only withstand being left in a forest for three weeks at a time but could be operated away from mains electricity.
“The BRC cameras were perfect for us. Once we’d weather-proofed the cameras and powered them with 12-volt lorry batteries, we set them up them in spots where we knew the lynx family would likely hang out in. From a distance, presenter Gordon Buchanan could watch and record the most intimate behaviour of our lynx mother Koshka as she nursed and protected her two young kittens Ivan and Aliona. The BRC cameras were sometimes inches away from these amazing cats who were completely oblivious to us watching them.”
“The only hiccup we encountered while shooting was when the mischievous lynx kittens decided to chew through the cables running to and from the cameras! It became a daily battle of presenter versus kittens to keep our cables buried or taped well out of reach. We simply could not have made the series without this remote camera system.”
“This was a totally innovative application for BRC cameras that have never been used like this before for a wildlife show”
Seeing a unique point of view
Complementing the BRC cameras, the production team also used the Sony RX0II 4K point-of-view camera to document Gordon’s daily challenges rehabilitate the lynx back into the wild.
“The RX0II was mounted backwards on Gordon’s main camera to capture his reactions as he filmed” explains Jonny. “It certainly stood up quality-wise against the rest of the footage – we were really pleased with the results in the edit. Its inconspicuous size and weight meant we captured plenty of off-the-cuff moments from Gordon. The RX0II really allowed us to film Gordon’s journey without a crew crashing through the undergrowth alongside him.”