Starting the Day With ‘Sunrise Earth’

Apr 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

When it comes to high definition, less is more.
At least that’s what Discovery’s Clint Stinchcomb, the company’s HD shepherd, believes. Discovery HD Theater began production late last month on a new HD series that will reveal one of the lesser-mined opportunities in HD: the chance to show its quieter, more sublime side.
The series is “Sunrise Earth,” a series of 20 hour-long episodes of actual real-time sunrises that will begin airing daily the first week in October at 6 a.m., said Mr. Stinchcomb, senior VP and general manager, Discovery HD Theater. The show is slated to be telecast at least twice per day.
The show is designed to be different from some of the other fast-moving, high-adventure programs Discovery and other networks offer in HD. Instead, “Sunrise Earth” will use the medium of HD to evoke calmness and serenity. “The typical shot in a [standard-definition] show is held for less than two seconds. With HD, to really appreciate the image, we want to allow viewers to really drink it in. What we want to do is present [viewers] with real-time natural events,” he said.
That means the sunrises will feature neither music nor commentary, but only the sounds of the local ecosystem and wildlife welcoming the dawn. Each episode will focus on one location.
The series will be shot in picturesque locales like the Allagash River in Maine, Yosemite Valley in California’s Yosemite National Park, and Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, where the production team earlier this month set up its shoot by a group of cypress and eucalyptus trees that host vocal song birds and an owl. The shot looked past these trees toward large groups of Tule Elk grazing in the fields, California poppies opening, and ravens and red-winged blackbirds flying above the ocean.
The inspiration for the series came in part from late cable pioneer Peter Barton, who died of stomach cancer in 2002. In his book “Not Fade Away,” Mr. Barton wrote about taking his family for a hot-air-balloon ride at sunrise. “That got me thinking,” Mr. Stinchcomb said. “One of the very last things he wanted to do in life was see a sunrise. For those of us that can’t get up at 4 a.m. in the morning and drive out to Point Reyes, it’s the next best thing. [In the series], you would hear the things you imagine hearing at the dawn of a camping trip-insects, wildlife, maybe a distant train engine. HD affords producers some unique opportunities toward taking some steps to redefine the visual medium.”
The show’s producer is David Conover, who’s worked for Discovery’s Science Channel and is a top “natural world” producer, Mr. Stinchcomb said. “When you ask consumers what they want to see in HD, it’s the natural world and sports. Why not try to give really what amounts to an unadulterated view of the natural world,” he said.