BBC - The Private Life Of Plants DVDRIP
Video Codec: DivX 5.05/5.11
Video Bitrate: ~1801kb/s
Video Resolution: 688x512
Video Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio BitRate: 192kb/s 48Khz
Audio Channels: 2
RunTime Per Part: ~49 Minutes
Number Of Parts: 6
Part Size: ~700MBytes
The series utilises time-lapse sequences extensively in order to grant insights that would otherwise be almost impossible. Plants live on a different time scale, and even though their life is highly complex and often surprising, most of it is invisible to humans unless events that happen over months or even years are shown within seconds. Like many traditional wildlife documentaries, it makes use of almost no computer animation. The series also discusses fungi, although as it is pointed out, these do not belong to the kingdom of plants.
The mechanisms of evolution are taught transparently by showing the advantages of various types of plant behaviour in action. The adaptations are often complex, as it becomes clear that the environment to which plants must adapt comprises not just soil, water and weather, but also other plants, fungi, insects and other animals, and even humans. The series shows that co-operative strategies are often much more effective than predatory ones, as these often lead to the prey developing methods of self-defence — from plants growing spikes to insects learning to recognise mimicry. Yet humans can work around all these rules of nature, so Attenborough concludes with a plea to preserve plants, in the interest of self-preservation.
In the 2002 documentary Life on Air, Keith Scholey, the head of the BBC Natural History Unit, relates that he and his team had been wondering about an ecology series that included plants, and found that Attenborough had been thinking along the same lines:
"So we went to his house and David, as always, listened to our idea and, you know, nodded and was very complimentary about it and said that 'Actually, I was thinking about something a little bit bolder.' And sure enough, by the end of lunch, we'd all signed up to do six hours on plants."
In the same programme, Attenborough also confessed that he conceived the series partly to realise a long-cherished ambition: to visit Mount Roraima, which is featured in the last episode.
Attenborough knew that the subject matter had not been covered in depth on television before, and in his autobiography, Life on Air, told of how he hit on the idea of time-lapse photography to illustrate it:
"There were, of course, gardening programmes on the BBC's schedules, but they did not deal with the basic facts of botany, or explain how plants feed, how they reproduce and distribute themselves, how they form alliances with particular animals. The reason was only too obvious. How could you construct the dramatic narratives needed for a successful television documentary series if your main characters are rooted to the ground and barely move? Thinking about this, it suddenly struck me that plants do move and very dramatically."
Outdoors time-lapse photography presents a unique set of challenges: the varying light and temperatures in particular can cause many problems. To film bluebells under a canopy of beech trees, for example, cameraman Richard Kirby covered them with a thick canvas tent that was lit from within to simulate daylight. He then used a motion-controlled camera to obtain a tracking shot, moving it slightly after each exposure.
"Midwinter, and the countryside is so still, it seems almost lifeless. But these trees and bushes and grasses around me are living organisms just like animals. And they have to face very much the same sort of problems as animals face throughout their lives if they're to survive. They have to fight one another, they have to compete for mates, they have to invade new territories. But the reason that we're seldom aware of these dramas is that plants of course live on a different time-scale."
– David Attenborough’s opening words
Broadcast 5 January 1995, the first episode looks at how plants are able to move. The bramble is an aggressive example: it advances forcefully from side to side and, once settled on its course, there is little that can stand in its way. An altogether faster species is the birdcage plant, which inhabits Californian sand dunes. When its location becomes exposed, it shifts at great speed to another one with the assistance of wind — and it is this that allows many forms of vegetation to distribute their seeds. While not strictly a plant, the spores of fungi are also spread in a similar fashion. One of the most successful (and intricate) flowers to use the wind is the dandelion, whose seeds travel with the aid of 'parachutes'. They are needed to travel miles away from their parents, who are too densely packed to allow any new arrivals. Trees have the advantage of height to send their seeds further, and the cottonwood is shown as a specialist in this regard. The humidity of the tropical rainforest creates transportation problems, and the liana is one plant whose seeds are aerodynamic 'gliders'. Some, such as those of the sycamore, take the form of 'helicopters', while others, such as the squirting cucumber release their seeds by 'exploding'. Water is also a widely used method of propulsion. However, most plants use living couriers, whether they be dogs, humans and other primates, ants or birds, etc., and to that end, they use colour and smell to signify when they are ripe for picking.