If I have one complaint with the … Planet series it’s the use of sound. It started with Blue Planet and I think it’s equally obvious here that the sound department have been layering it on a bit thick where it doesn’t need it.
Otherwise it’s everything you’d expect. HD camera work that really makes me wish I’d drugged the Mrs and got something bigger than a 32" screen, breath taking footage of stuff you thought you knew and a whole bunch of other things you didn’t.
When you see it, I hope you haven’t played WoW when the polar bear sequences come on. It may be that WoW uses Polar/Grizzly bear samples for their sound effects, but it sounds… how should I put it, cheap.
I blame the movies, where every time an animal appears on screen it has to make an exaggerated noise each time it moves a muscle. It heightens the reality, and unfortunately it’s seeped into natural history film-making. But these days, natural history shows aren’t about science or accuracy, they’e about getting viewers, and spectacle is king.
I remember an old Wildlife on One about sea horses, there was a discussion about the ridiculous “sucking through a straw” noise that the sea horses were making while feeding. It turns out they actually went to great effort to get this sound, building a specialised hydrophone to record the feeding noises accurately. People had become so used to foley techniques that real sound recording wasn’t appreciated.
It also comes down to budget. Getting great visuals is seen as a priority over getting accurate sound, and paying for a cameraman to sit in the field for three weeks to get a piece of behaviour is expensive enough without having a sound guy sitting next to him for a few seconds of sound that most people won’t appreciate.
At a risk of being in bad taste to make a point no-one dubbed the wilhelm scream onto the World Trade Centre Tower Jumpers to add emphasis so why add a stock “bear growl” to make up for the cameras, presumably, being half a mile away to capture what is still incredible footage? Ultimately the fake soundtrack distracts from the footage. Attenborough’s commentary, perhaps with a low key musical background (though blue planet really overused music as a replacement for actual sound for me) would have done rather than a stock sound effect.