National Geographic continues to break traditional boundaries and explore never-before-seen frontiers. With new, emerging technology and the ability to live-stream pretty much anything, the network is bringing us Earth Live, an as-it-happens TV special featuring live footage of nature from around the world.
Co-hosted by former Glee star Jane Lynch and The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan, Earth Live will bring viewers a night of unprecedented live wildlife programming, simulcast in 171 countries and 45 languages. With camera people placed around the world in various locales — and every continent except Antarctica, which is currently in the throes of winter — Earth Live will showcase some of the world’s most elusive wildlife.
This is the first time in TV history that something like this has been attempted. Global News spoke briefly with Keoghan about the special and what viewers are going to see. Here are six things you can expect from Earth Live.
Earth Live is being shot deliberately during a full moon.
The obvious plus of a full moon is there will be much more natural light, which will allow the cinematographers to capture as much as possible. The full moon also brings extreme tides, and those tides bring ocean life closer to land, which in turn brings out the predators. It’s a cycle that National Geographic hopes to harness.
“Two years ago, we couldn’t have even thought about doing this,” said Keoghan. “We didn’t have cameras that could see with just moonlight. These aren’t even infrared cameras, they’re so light receptive that they can see just by the light of the moon. In fact, we’re going to have to tell the viewers that it’s the middle of the night in Africa, because it’s so unbelievable when you see the images. It looks like daylight.”
These high-tech cameras also have the added benefit of not disturbing the animals as they go about their lives, making the footage even more authentic. In some cases, the animals may not even know the humans are nearby.
The show is using the world’s best wildlife cinematographers, stationed around the world.
Joining Lynch and Keoghan in the New York City studio is animal expert and zoologist Chris Packham, who’ll help guide the viewers along as the special travels across six continents.
Emmy Award-winning wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole will be in Ethiopia to get up-close and personal with a hyena clan. National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, best-known for his work documenting the cats of the Pantanal over the past 20 years, will give viewers an inside look at the ocelot, a rare and elusive cat.
Wildlife cameraman Sandesh Kadur will focus on langurs, the Old World monkeys found in Jodhpur, India, and Sophie Darlington, who made her name filming big cats, will employ cutting-edge, military-grade thermal imaging cameras to expose the hunting strategy of a pride of lions in Kenya.
The footage won’t just be on the ground, either.
It’ll be in the air and under the sea, too.
Andy Casagrande, also an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer, will broadcast live underwater from a feeding frenzy of bull sharks in the South Pacific.
Additionally, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his discovery of the RMS Titanic (yes, that Titanic), will join the broadcast as he explores the depths of the oceans off the coast of California during one of his Nautilus expeditions.
Kids can watch too, but remember: these are live, wild animals and anything can happen.
There will be blood, as they say.
“We are going to warn the audience that these animals are in the wild, they may decide it’s dinnertime,” said Keoghan. “We have to be up-front and let them know. For instance, the bull sharks will be feeding and we’re hoping to capture that.”
Let’s not forget the lions waiting for migrating herds of wildebeest…
Some Earth Live events and footage will blow your mind.
Barely-seen events featured in Earth Live include the bat exodus in Bracken Cave, Tx., where cameras will capture 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats as they leave their subterranean cave, and an Alaskan DNA hunt, where cameramen and scientists will travel to the southeast coast in search of humpback whales to capture whale DNA with a specifically designed drone called the “snot-bot.”
“The [footage] I’m really looking forward to — there are many — is the point-of-view of a golden eagle,” said Keoghan. “The golden eagle has an enormous wingspan, and it’s very fast. It can reach speeds of up to 200 miles an hour. We have a very small device that the animal will be carrying for us, to give us some data, a readout of its speed, altitude and position. It’ll also have a camera so we can see it dive in for its prey.”
“Again, this is all happening live and these animals haven’t signed any appearance contracts, so we’re hoping they want to come to the party,” he continued, laughing. “We hope they’re as excited as we are. These are wild animals, so they’ll be making up their own minds if they want to participate in the show.”
If nothing ends up happening on camera, Lynch and Keoghan have a contingency plan.
Since the special is broadcasting live from New York City, there’s always the option of running down to the street to get some shots of rats eating pizza. According to Keoghan, Lynch also has “at least three hours” of solid animal impersonations should things go awry. In all seriousness, Keoghan is optimistic it won’t resort to that.
“We have all the elements in place,” he assured us. “We have the best wildlife photographers, experts and producers, plus all the potential energy. How that potential energy will manifest itself is completely unknown. That’s part of the risk of doing live TV. It would be highly unusual if we had nothing to go to, but of course there’s a chance. It’ll be a really exciting show for people, and based on the knowledge of these experts, we will be able to do something unprecedented.”
‘Earth Live’ airs on Sunday, July 9 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on National Geographic.
(You can watch a sneak peek of ‘Earth Live’ in the video at the top of the article.)