BBC faked dramatic ‘dirty thunderstorm’ volcano scene for natural history show
The BBC has admitted faking spectacular scenes of a volcano eruption in its new natural history series Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise.
The program, broadcast in late September, purported to show a “dirty thunderstorm” above the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile, with flashes of lighting within clouds of ash.
The scene was actually created by using footage from two different eruptions four years apart.
It turns out the lightning strikes were superimposed to the ash cloud to make the footage more dramatic. The main Calbuco volcano eruption was captured by the BBC in 2015 and the lightning shots were taken by a Chilean photographer in 2011 of a different volcano.
It is the latest fakery row for the BBC, which came under fire for another of its nature programs, when the Sir David Attenborough program Frozen Planet was found to have faked a scene of a polar bear being born in the wild.
It transpired that the bear was actually filmed in a zoo, despite Sir David’s voiceover referring to cubs being born “beneath the snow” with intercut footage of polar bears in the wild.
At the time, the BBC denied misleading the audience.
One member of staff at the BBC’s Natural History Unit told the Observer that the manipulated volcano scene could damage trust in their programs, saying: “If we falsify one scene, who is going to believe anything else in that programme or, for that matter, any other film that we produce.”
The BBC has since posted a blog on their website to explain how the volcano images were achieved, but no mention was made of the special effects when the programme was broadcast.
In the blog, the programme’s producer Tuppence Stone says: “We took timelapse images from the Calbuco volcano filmed in early 2015 and the lightning shots were superimposed onto the erupting cloud.
“The lightning shots were taken by an award-winning Chilean photographer, of a nearby Patagonian volcano, Cordón Caulle four years earlier during its eruption, using long exposure techniques.
“The Cordón Caulle volcano eruption was a very similar event to the Calbuco volcano this year.”
But in a statement the BBC admitted the corporation should have made it clear to viewers that the scene had been doctored.
A spokesman said: “In order to show viewers the extraordinary spectacle of a dirty thunderstorm with lightning flashes that would be impossible to capture in a single camera, a composite image was put together from footage from two Patagonian volcanoes.
“However, we recognise that this should have been made clear and so have published a blog post to explain the techniques used.”