On Wednesday the 12th November, The Qantas Credit Union Arena hosted the legendary Sir David Attenborough as he presented his latest show, “The Third Dimension.” Much to the jealousy of my friends, family and basically everyone I told, I was one of the four thousand people in the audience of a night I can only describe as purely inspiring.
As I walked to my seat in the arena, 3D glasses in hand, it still seemed unbelievable that I would be seeing Attenborough in the flesh and be listening to THAT voice, the voice of not only my own but also millions of other’s childhoods.
The lights faded as the night began with a clip of a very, very young David Attenborough in Africa, filmed in grainy black and white, a stark contrast to 3D technology we would come to see throughout the night. Although shot many decades ago, the charismatic Attenborough was instantly recognisable and after a short introduction by Ray Martin, Sir David Attenborough, now aged 88, was welcomed onto stage to a massive roar of applause.
As the title of the show suggests, Ray Martin acted as interviewer to Attenborough, as he discussed his team’s latest work using the emerging 3D film technology. Attenborough discussed how he and his team overcame the drawbacks of the using such a bulky 3D camera (which takes 15 people to handle) and presented short clips of their progress with the technology. Due to the disruptive nature of the manpower required to use such a camera, at present the only organisms that can be effectively filmed are those that are slow moving and not easily startled by the presence of humans.
It was fascinating to hear and see the process as Attenborough and his team explored the potential of 3D. Initially, the technology was used alongside CGI to produce the Natural History Museum Alive programme, in which fossils (very, very slow moving and most definitely not scared of people) were brought to life alongside Attenborough. The footage is so seamless, and the CGI so vibrant and lifelike, it gives you shivers watching a sabre-tooth tiger’s skeleton stalk Attenborough through the halls of the museum. But, Attenborough did not want to stop at 3D fossils, as he put it, “My brother already did a film about dinosaurs, I didn’t want to copy.”
The following clips then showed the progression of experimentation with 3D filming, as Attenborough introduced a series of clips including time-lapse on carnivorous plants, crafty spiders, Lonely George and the creatures of the Galapagos. The most hilarious clip illustrated the struggle of being a penguin on the shores of South Georgia surrounded by a frustratingly fat and flatulent gang of elephant seals. After this clip Attenborough divulged that filming penguins could be quite simple compared to filming other species due to the fact that if the main star isn’t doing what is required there are hundreds of identical understudies at hand to step in.
The second half of the night consisted of a Q&A segment from members of the audience. The audience member’s questions were incredible and motivated some compelling answers by Attenborough (I probably could have only stuttered out, ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ or something equally as uninspiring).
This was my favourite part of the night as we got to hear Attenborough’s opinion of some very topical issues, as well as offering a little personal insight into his childhood. He told stories of his childhood pet newt, his concerns over keeping big cats in zoos, the invaluable knowledge of indigenous people throughout his career and, most pivotal to me, the impact of climate change he has seen first hand throughout a six decade career of travelling.
It is obvious that the appeal of Attenborough does not stop at the “science-y” types (i.e. me) as I sat within a perfect example of the all-encompassing allure of Attenborough and his work. The array of age groups present in the audience ranged from parents with small children, young couples, all the way to those who could be the same age as Attenborough himself. What I find so inspiring about Sir David Attenborough is his never-tiring enthusiasm, and passion for the natural world.
His almost childlike wonder for the world around him is what captivates his audiences and I found myself on many occasions on the edge of my seat, mouth open, completely enraptured. I travelled 800 kms to see Sir David Attenborough and I would gladly do it again. The legend has no plans of slowing down anytime soon and made the promise that he’ll be back for another show next year, so I guess I will be too and I’m very much looking forward to it.
First published on 2nd June 2015 on RiAus – Australia’s Science Channel