Recently I reviewed Steve Backshall’s latest show, Fierce, a documentary getting up close with the worlds most deadliest and feared wildlife. It really stood out for it’s bold colours, fast paced editing and breathtaking drone shots and it got me thinking; the same subject can be approached in so many ways. With this in mind I decided to study a section of wildlife documentaries and observe the way in which they presented similar subjects.
Fierce – chosen because – The edited is fast paced, bold and punchy and is like a breath of fresh air.
Deadly 60 – chosen because – Steve Backshall also presents this and I’m interested to see how the two compare.
Below is a comparison chart I made
I began with the documentaries Fierce and Deadly 60. They are essentially the same programme except one is intended for a younger target audience (though a critic once concluded the content and presentation of the show is too good for children and many adults also watch it) whereas Fierce with it’s gruesome content is aimed at any age group, ideally older (and with a stronger stomach) Both feature wildlife enthusiast Steve Backshall on the hunt for the most venomous and deadly creatures. In Deadly 60 it’s for his list rating the deadliest animals, much like a trading card game (very appealing for it’s target audience and commercially successful) and in Fierce he is encountering the most deadliest creatures this planet has to offer.” I’m on an expedition to find these ‘fierce’ predators, discover what makes them tck and meet the people that share their world.”
After watching Fierce with it’s punchy editing I was interested to see whether Deadly 60 would follow the same pattern. It exceeded it by miles, the editing was so velocious and snappy I counted 14 shots in 12 seconds. This is to appeal to children who aren’t going to sit through a lengthy documentary with extended scenes and calm classical music. It has to pack a punch and Deadly 60 certainly does, launching the viewer straight into the world of Steve Backshall, flashing images of the surroundings set the scene tangled up with action camera moments as the filmmakers race after Steve through the environment. The screen lurches and flicks from the floor to the sky heightening the drama reminiscent of Bear Gryll’s programmes. This effect was also used in Fierce though not as much so as in Deadly 60.
The colour was interesting as you would think that a nature documentary would show a true representation of the world yet the contrast between the colour spectrum was immense. Fierce featured bright bold and vivid, punchy colours that brought the scene to life in stunning technicolour whereas Deadly 60’s colours were much more muted and of standard natural colours. This is also true of the lighting, in Fierce it was strong and intense yet in Deadly 60 the lighting was neutral and calm.
Both programmes were constantly moving, there were infrequent moments of calm to add depth and contrast such as night time when the bats initiated their nightly flight or setting up camp in the middle of nowhere.
So far there were a lot of similarities but one thing that Deadly 60 took advantage of for its target audience was it’s use of cinematic effects. One moment Steve was driving along the road with no filters and suddenly there was a grainy retro effect on them, flashes of the Deadly 60 logo with lines going down the camera and jerking shots. Fierce was void of such effects but again that comes down to the target audience. They want children to watch the programme so the producers ensure it as fun and edgy so as to appeal to as many people as possible.
On the predator and prey side of things one thing very potent in Fierce were the graphic images of the prey, blood and gore which featured heavily, I’m sure this will have lost some viewers. One would think that Deadly 60 being for children would tone that down but it was surprising how many of these scenes were included. Not enough to be disturbing as in Fierce but it definitely didn’t try and steer away from these things.
The music featured in the documentaries were also a contrast, Fierce featured classical content, a score that illustrated the scene whereas Fierce was punchy, upbeat, and nergetic, again appealing to children, amping up the energy of all the scenes.
One thing I enjoy in Deadly 60 that was left out in Fierce was the interaction and inclusion between Steve and the camera crew. Most programmes stay clear away from this but in Deadly 60 they are a big part of the show, which seems right seeing as they are producing all the footage. They are jumped on by monkeys, shown crushed up in the back of a jeep as it rollocks down bumpy terrain and you feel what it’s like to be the cameraman as they pan wildly trying to find the elusive creature they are tracking.