Panasonic VariCam LT captures snow leopards for new BBC series

Image: Anna Place

A new BBC natural history series following the life of big cats has made use of Panasonic's VariCam LT to track down the elusive snow leopards of Himachal Pradesh.

Shooting over five weeks in the freezing temperatures of Northern India, where snow leopards inhabit areas in which rocky outcrops provide perfect camouflage, meant the production team of Big Cats needed to prepare for some of the most challenging working conditions on Earth.

"If you see one, it would be a kilometre away or even more, then you walk for as much as three hours to get to where it was," comments Hector Skevington-Postles, Director of Photography on Big Cats. 

As a result, the equipment the operators carried needed to be relatively light. In addition, due to the cold weather and long walks, the batteries were also a consideration and needed to be sufficiently powerful for most eventualities.

Because the cats are most active at dawn and dusk, low-light capability led the DoP to choose the VariCam LT. The second dual native 5000 ISO enabled Hector to achieve a clean shot even in very low-light conditions.

“I chose the Varicam LT, in order that we had the option to increase the ISO. It meant that, once we combined it with a Canon CN20 50–1000mm lens, we had the extra sensitivity needed to maintain the focus - which is always a problem over that kind of distance," adds Hector. “I’d say another crucial reason for choosing VariCam was the viewfinder. I believe it's the best viewfinder out there and it makes so much difference to me.”

Filming Big Cats requires not only good-quality hardware but also a lot of patience and luck to capture the wild animals in their natural environment.

"Seeing a snow leopard for the first time is like a childhood dream come true. This also creates a certain amount of pressure to ensure that I take the perfect shot after two weeks on the side of a hill walking miles and miles every day," commented Hector.

To view the full series of Big Cats please visit www.bbc.co.uk/bigcats.

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