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Penguin 'spy' cams help BBC filmmakers create a fascinating documentary

Feb 13, 2013 at 19:43 GMT

A new BBC documentary uses tiny disguised cameras to take an intimate look at the lives of penguins. Wildlife producer John Downer and his team shot 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle' with fifty 'spy cameras' disguised as rocks, eggs and even penguins themselves. The team shot footage of Emperor penguins in Antarctica, Rockhopper penguins on the Falkland Islands and Humboldt penguins in the Atacama Desert near the Peru-Chile border. Click through for photos, video and more information about the cameras.

According to producer John Downer, on his production website, 'key to the success of the spycam missions are the animatronic cameras cleverly disguised as life-size  penguins which can silently infiltrate the colonies to record the penguins’ often emotional, and sometimes amusing, behavior'.

'They’re on hand to chart the tough challenges these penguins face from the moment they emerge from the sea to raising their chicks and finally returning to the water.'

About the Cameras

With names such as RockhopperCam, ChickCam and SnowCam, the spycameras used for filming were designed to shoot either a specific species or purpose. For instance, the RockhopperCam featured robot technology enabled bipedaling penguin with gyro/accelerometer sensors and a high-resolution vision system to allow it to walk among the penguins as one of them. The Emperorcam was deployed for sea ice operations could float on water and film the chicks first arrival to the sea. A very interesting underwater PenguinCam can 'swim' at a speed of 4 knots and dive down to a depth of 100 metres, even in rough sea contions. (via BBC and John Downer Productions)

This is the 'Underwater PenguinCam', disuguised as a swimming penguin. Cameras hidden in the eye captured penguin behaviour above and below water. The 'EggCam' is disguised as an egg with a ruggedized shell fitted with an HD remote camera that could record for up to 12 hours.

The heavy duty 'SnowCam' was developed to film in the harsh Antarctic conditions.

And the 'SnowballCam' can be rolled around by the penguins themselves. Its quiet operation made it an important device for filming close to the colony.

Trailer of Penguins: Spy in the Huddle

Here is the trailer of 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle' documentary. Watch the full documentary here (viewable only to the UK audience)