BBC wildlife documentary Spy in the Ocean used a camera cunningly disguised an animatronic octopus to communicate with a real octopus in the ocean — even getting a tentacled cuddle from the creature in the process.
The task of filming wildlife behaving naturally can be a tough endeavor. However, Spy in the Ocean has innovatively used high-tech cameras built to look like animals to covertly capture remarkable footage of the creatures under the sea.
These spycams were able to swim closer to animals than human divers and secretly record their behavior in the wild, capturing unprecedented footage.
The first episode of the four-part series, which is filmed in the Indian Ocean as well as other locations including Thailand, Japan, and the Caribbean, aired on the BBC on Sunday.
A Camera Accepted by a Real Octopus
Fascinating footage in the first episode revealed how an undercover robotic camera built to resemble an octopus was able to communicate with a real-life octopus and demonstrate how highly intelligent the animals are.
The pair end up interacting with one another when the Spy Octopus helps its real counterpart hide from nearby sharks. The camera brings a coconut shell to the real octopus so it can camouflage itself from the predators that are getting too close to them.
The real octopus then cleverly steals the coconut shell from the Spy Octopus and uses it to hide from the sharks.
After the sharks move on, the real octopus thanks the spy octopus and gives it a tentacled hug in a sign of gratitude and acceptance of the camera.
‘Functional and Beautiful’ Spy Cameras
Spy in The Ocean is the aquatic follow-up series to Spy in The Wild which aired five years ago and used similar technology to film animals.
According to Televisual, Spy in The Wild producer Rob Pilley says it is an “industrial process” to build the animatronic animals that film the show, encompassing robotics, programming, and aesthetics.
“You have to make them functional, practical, and beautiful,” Pilley explains.
Inside the spy creatures are remote-controlled miniature cameras, shooting in 4K, and often hidden in the eye sockets of the animatronics.
Spy in The Wild producer Matthew Gordon says the cameras come from a wide range of manufacturers, but have been stripped down and modified to fit inside the spy creatures.
The producers say that deploying such expensive camera equipment in the wild can be an extremely stressful process, with producers fearful that it will be destroyed in an instant by suspicious animals.
The robotic animals are not the only devices filming each scene. Up to 10 cameras at a time — from boulder-cams to dung-cams — were also placed in situ during the filming of Spy in The Wild to record footage. There is also a long-lens camera recording footage.
“We can cut between them to get lots of different angles, which you can’t do in natural history very often,” executive producer John Downer tells Televisual.