James Bond-worthy “Penguin-cam” helps BBC filmmakers create intimate documentary about penguins in Antarctica


posted Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:49 AM EST


When producers of a BBC documentary about penguins in Antarctica wanted to get up close and personal while filming these cute creatures they knew they they'd need spy technology worthy of James Bond. So, they created "Penguin Cam," a group of life-like penguins equipped with cameras, which could capture the daily world of a band of Emperor Penguins.

The results of their ingenious penguin spy cameras are on display in "Penguins - Spy in the Huddle," which has been showing on BBC One in Great Britain. (Editor's note: Country restrictions prevent the linked video from being seen outside the U.K.)

In the YouTube clip at the bottom of this post from a British talk show (which can be viewed in the U.S.), wildlife producer John Downer and camera operator Geoff Bell discuss the various penguin cams they used for the documentary, including an animatronic robot that can pick itself up by its flippers, and an underwater version with propellers. There were also several static look-a-like penguins, with cameras in the body and in the eye.

"They certainly accepted the animatronic and the static penguins as well," Bell said. "And they befriended them and we (were) able to get much much closer to the action really."

Bell would operate the penguin cameras remotely from a distance while watching a live video feed from the devices. In all, the BBC film crew deployed a total of 50 special cameras, with some disguised as rocks and eggs as well. Bell said they lost a few of their penguin cameras during the year of filming but had plenty of back-ups on hand.


Luckily none of the penguins got gobbled up by a hungry Leopard seal, as happened to this National Geographic photographer during an incredible face-to-face encounter.

(Via BBC News)