SO-CALLED reality TV has nothing on the real-life stakes in Planet Earth II.
Cameras capture life and death situations in stunning 4K resolution in the acclaimed documentary series now screening on Australian screens.
Following up a mammoth series like Planet Earth, which was the first natural history series to be filmed in high definition, is no easy task.
BBC filmmakers had the expectations of more than half a billion people, who'd seen the original series, resting on their shoulders.
"We felt there was a zeitgeist coming around full circle again. Both the wonder and vulnerability or fragility of the planet had come back to the front of mind for people," executive producer Mike Gunton tells The Guide.
"We felt like it was the right time to visit it. In the UK there was a real sense of people looking introspectively... a lot of people said it was an opportunity to raise their eyes up from their feet and see the wonders of the world.
"But then we still had to do it, and we still had to deliver."
Nearly four years in the making, Planet Earth II boasts the most immersive and engaging wildlife footage ever captured thanks to advances in science and camera technology.
"There has been quite an upsurge in the knowledge and studying of behaviour, so there are good new stories out there," Gunton says.
"That's partly because of the way the scientific community now communicates within itself. Scientists now use a lot of imagery to tell and share their stories.
"There had been been quite a lull in technology where we hadn't had anything that particularly felt like it was a game changer.
"But then just in the past three years a number of things became available... one was 4K, which was much easier for us to use and cameras that were able to see in the dark.
"Our cameramen could also take the camera off the tripod and be with the animals.
"It felt definitely like a different take on how animals survive in their habitats.
"It's the same broad editorial concept, as Planet Earth, about how animals cope with the particular challenges an environment throws up."
Australia features in three episodes thanks to segments filmed in Townsville, the Northern Territory and Christmas Island.
"Christmas Island's land crab migration is a familiar, famous, great natural wonder," Gunton says.
"But we felt there was a new spin on the story which was the invasive species.
"We wanted to revisit and contextualise that fragility. In each episode we have one moment where the audience is reminded in a nuanced way of the perils and fragility of these habitats."
Gunton says the team has saved the best, and most exciting, footage for last.
"The final episode, which is a bit of a departure for us, is the natural history of cities," he says.
"In the contemporary version of Planet Earth we couldn't ignore the fastest-growing habitat, which is the one controlled by humans.
"We wanted to make sure we filmed it like a wildlife habitat; it is an ecosystem in its own right."
Planet Earth II airs Wednesdays at 7.30pm on Channel 9.
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