Discovery and BBC’s Life debuts Sunday with spectacular HD footage of “challenges of life”

Sunday, the Discovery Channel will debut the first two hours of Life, an 11-part documentary series that was produced with the BBC, which aired it last fall. Oprah Winfrey narrates the US version, which on Sunday will be simulcast at 8 p.m. ET on all seven Discovery networks (Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery, Planet Green, and the Discovery Health Channel), including the HD versions of six of those channels.

Life focuses on “the adaptability and diversity of life on earth, revealing the most spectacular, bizarre and fascinating behaviors that living things have devised to thrive,” according to Discovery. The first episode is titled “Challenges of Life,” and other episodes focus on groupings of living things, like “Mammals” and “Plants.” It’s a follow-up to Planet Earth, the $2 million-per-episode, Emmy-winning series that, when it was first released, became the best-selling HD DVD yet.

That’s because the high-definition footage is stunning. There’s no other word for it. (If you didn’t see Planet Earth, definitely check out one of its many DVD versions.)

I talked to executive producer Mike Gunton for a Daily Beast story about the series, and he detailed the way they approached production of the 2,500 hours of tape for the series. That includes filming small creatures in the same way that they would large creatures. That resulted in spectacular scenes such as this chase.

In a part of the interview that didn’t fit in the story, he also told me that their HD equipment offers “a new aesthetic” and allows them to do things they otherwise couldn’t do, like film for longer periods of time. He also described it as “robust” and said, “a few of our cameras have done seven years hard labor in every habitat you can ever think of, from the arctic to the desert to the jungle to the bottom of the ocean, so they’re pretty good.” That strikes me as yet another argument that CBS and The Amazing Race suck for continuing to deprive us of HD. (I realize it’s a budget issue and one that complicates hiring local crews, but if this series and Whale Wars and Deadliest Catch can all shoot in HD, so can The Amazing Race.)

Anyway, it’s clear the equipment and the talent behind the camera paid off once again. Just watch this incredible scene for one example:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.