Friday, June 6, 2008


Tuesday 18 Mar 2008

For CBBC's new series Smalltalk Diaries wildlife cameraman and producer Martin Dohrn used an innovative tiny HD camera and motion control rig to record close-up shots of insect life in high-definition.

Smalltalk Diaries was conceived, directed and filmed by Dohrn, who has been filming natural history for over 20 years for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the BBC Natural History Unit and others. The 10-episode series from Dohrn's production company, Ammonite Ltd., is an exploration of the insect world via the fictional 'translation lens', which allows the creatures to communicate directly with viewers, and presents a unique twist on the genre.

Dohrn is the creator of several motion-control rigs, including the 'Antcam' used on the BBC's In Search of Killer Ants, and the Frankencam used for David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth. His latest rig was developed specifically for use with the Iconix HD-RH1F camera system in order to capture increasingly tiny and complex wildlife, and is the inspiration behind the Smalltalk Diaries translation lens.

"Being able to have very, very small lenses fit onto a very, very small camera helps to create a look and a feel that we hope no one has ever seen before," Dohrn observes. "We've captured some very extraordinary images with the Iconix that wouldn't have been possible with an ordinary camera, in particular the endoscope work. There's no other way to do that kind of image. There isn't another camera that can do what we are doing."

Dohrn notes that as the migration to high definition television continues, wildlife filmmaking is being redefined. "Because our subjects are so small, we had to develop a motion control device for the Toshiba T-48 we had been using. Making this series in HD, we wanted an HD camera that was comparable in size, and the Iconix fit our needs perfectly."

Featuring a camera head about the size of a golf ball, and weighing two ounces, the remote head system of the Iconix HD-RH1F can keep pace with larger HD video cameras, yet is versatile enough to offer 35 different format and frame rate combinations. According to Dohrn, the Iconix perfectly complements the Panasonic VariCam also used by the production.

"Because of the small chip size, the Iconix gives us an advantage with the absolute light levels needed to film light sensitive animals," he says. "Basically, we need two stops less light than we would with the VariCam. It's a huge advantage to us."

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