They are the programs that leave viewers enthralled by the wonders of nature.
But many wildlife scenes in BBC series are faked, a veteran cameraman admits.
In fact, most footage involving small animals is not what it appears, Doug Allan said.
Species “smaller than a baby rabbit” are put in custom-built sets and filmed under controlled conditions, rather than in the wild.
Mr Allan’s revelation comes only two years after Sir David Attenborough’s flagship documentary Frozen Planet was accused of fakery for filming the birth of a polar bear in a zoo rather than in the wild.
The footage was defended at the time by the veteran naturalist, who compared nature documentaries to “making movies”.
But Mr Allan – once described by Sir David as the best cameraman he had worked with – said he understood why people felt “deceived”. He said: “I think the BBC didn’t handle it the best. On their website there was a video showing how it was done, but they didn’t quite bring enough attention to it. It wasn’t obvious.”
Mr Allan defended the use of captive animals in wildlife films, so long as producers make it clear to audiences which shots are not gathered in the wild.
“You can’t make a film about mice just by going out into a meadow and looking at mice,” he said. “You need to introduce them to a safely built set in which they will be happy. There’s a lot of skill in doing that.”
Asked whether cameramen were worried about filming wildlife on sets, he said they “have to do and accept it”, adding: “Nobody seemed to be bothered by it.”
Mr Allan was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, where he is promoting his book Freeze Frame: A Wildlife Cameraman’s Adventures On Ice.
He said the BBC should have been proud of the way in which it gathered the Frozen Planet footage rather than hiding the explanation on its website.
The sequence showed the newborn polar bears mewling and nuzzling their mother in a cave.
Eight million viewers were led to believe the footage was captured by BBC cameramen in harsh subzero temperatures.
However, it emerged it was actually shot in a Dutch zoo, using fake snow.
It was interspersed with real shots of the Arctic, while Sir David’s carefully worded narration led viewers to believe the scene was genuine. The veteran broadcaster, 87, defended the footage at the time, saying: “Come on, we were making movies.”
But Mr Allan said the BBC should have flagged up its filming techniques at the end of the program. He said: “Be proud of it, and then I think people would have felt less deceived. I don’t have a problem with that sort of thing – I did it myself years earlier – but the public, some of the public, chose to think that was fakery.”
Mr Allan was not involved in the polar bear scene and does not film small animals.
He also addressed the future of nature documentaries, saying there would be no one like Sir David on television again and claiming the presenter’s involvement in a program guaranteed 20 per cent more viewers.
Read More: Here
Very good liars: