The NATURE episode “Big Birds Can’t Fly” (premiering Wednesday, Oct 7 at 8/7c on PBS. Check local listings.) begins with a brand new opening sequence that features an updated logo and a majestic leopard. NATURE Executive Producer Fred Kaufman answered a few questions about how the new ‘open’ was created and its symbolism.
Q: How often does the NATURE open change and why did you decide to revamp it this season?
We try to introduce a new open about every six years. We all felt that this season we needed a new and more exciting way to begin our films. At some point the open and all the branding elements need to be refreshed and now was the time.
Q: The new open features a leopard scaling the iconic acacia tree. How did the decision come about to use a live animal?
We felt we needed movement around the tree and another beautiful element that would interact with the tree and the leopard was the most obvious choice. A big cat is very compelling animal to look at and we knew it would hold the viewer’s attention.
Q: Who did you enlist to create the open? How long did it take and what did they have to go through to get the perfect shots?
Well, when you’re creating an open for NATURE the visual choices are endless. We worked with a company called Big Machine, but we also used our producers and editors to contribute versions using all of the recorded footage. We wanted to keep the open short – about 15 seconds – so immediately we knew that would limit our options. The tree is our logo and we wanted to shoot it in every way possible: time lapse, motion control, at sunrise, at sunset, at night with a starscape, etc. Fortunately, the tree doesn’t move, so it was easy to get all the shots we wanted. Getting the leopard to walk down the tree, jump and walk off in the direction we wanted was trickier, but we got it. We filmed for four days and shot approximately six hours of footage.
Q: Why does the open always feature an acacia tree? What does it symbolize?
The acacia is an iconic tree found on the African plains. It symbolizes nature, the wild, the beauty of the natural world. Over thirty years ago when the series first started we did a film on the acacia tree and the producer sent us a photograph of the tree for us to use for publicity. Our graphic designer took the photo and created the logo we’ve been using since.