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Attenborough soars in 3d

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15 December 2010

Review: The private cinema at London’s Mayfair Hotel reverberated to the sound of lengthy applause last night as the credits rolled on the world premiere screening of David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters 3d.

Attenborough was on hand to present the film about pterosaurs, which plays on Sky’s new 3d channel on Christmas Day and represents the broadcaster’s most high profile foray into 3d production.

The film is, in a word, stunning. Produced by Atlantic Productions, it showcases the capabilities of 3d in recreating the lost world of the pterosaurs - flying dinosaurs with a wingspan of up to 45 feet who lived 200 million years ago.

Attenborough wrote and presented the film and his presence lends it a natural and calm authority.

But the real success of the film lies in its use of 3d to help viewers understand how these creatures evolved, how they looked, how they moved and the environment they lived in. The 3d isn’t flashy or over the top - it’s there to educate and inform as well as entertain.

In one of many technically accomplished sequences, confusing flat fossil specimens are meticulously transformed into fully formed, 3d pterosaur skeletons.

“I hope that we haven’t been too obvious in the way that we use 3d,” said Attenborough afterwards. “I hope that we had enough faith in what 3d does, not just to whiz out and come back at you.” He added that 3d helped to convey a reality that 2d wouldn’t be able to achieve.

Attenborough said it had been a “great shock” to make a natural history film in 3d. “Normally on a trip into Africa, there is me, a cameraman, a sound recordist and sometimes a director - four tops. Well there were 12 people just to handle the camera. Four people were required to carry it.”

He paid particular tribute to the team at Atlantic and vfx outfit Zoo who created the 3d images.

But he predicted that 3d wouldn’t be a format that would be used for everyday viewing. “I don’t think 3d is going to become wallpaper TV. Partly because with the technology as it stands, you need glasses. When you put them on, it is very isolating. I think that 3d is going to be for event television.”

Attenborough and Atlantic are now making another 3d film for Sky, about penguins in South Georgia. “The thought of the Penguin films is to have the penguins, and sea elephants and albatrosses - but also be underwater with penguins, great shoals and fleets of penguins. I am sure will be absolutely mind blowing. I am also sure it will be about as demanding technically as you could conceive for any programme.”

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