Nature’s new two-part series, “Moment of Impact,” which airs on Sunday, April 4 and April 11, at 8 p.m. on Channel 56, explores the little known “super powers” of the animal kingdom.
Some of the footage is brutal as we watch these beasts vie for supremacy, either through the acquisition of food or a mate, but unlike the usual documentary format showing the externals, the viewer actually gets a computer generated simulation of what occurs inside the animal.
What makes this entertaining as well as educational is its approach to storytelling. Make no mistake, the program doesn’t shy away from the sometimes cruel appearance of a predator versus its prey, but the most satisfying part is watching the prey actually get the upper hand, and as the documentary explains, often the pair are not as unevenly matched as we think.
Using a technique called “360 Degree Time Slice” technology – high-speed time-lapse cameras, infrared and night vision combined with computer graphics to illustrate physical attributes and behaviors, the viewer is literally brought inside the action.
“This is the definitive television experience for anyone who wants to explore animal marvels from flying reptiles to fishing birds,” said Fred Kaufman, series executive producer. “Animals seem to defy the laws of physics with their incredible abilities every day. Often, these moments happen in the blink of an eye, making them nearly impossible to see. Now, with our cutting-edge camera and computer production, viewers get an inside look at just how animals work.”
My favorite segment involves a rattlesnake against a group of ground squirrels. Due to their special genetic makeup they are able to confuse the rattlesnake by increasing the flow of blood, raising their heat index.
A mother squirrel in the seemingly protective space of a burrow fends off the rattlesnake by essentially tossing lots of dirt in its path. At the risk of being buried alive, the rattlesnake retreats. She and her cubs live to fight another day.
Perhaps the funniest tidbit I learned is that those highly spirited woodpeckers aren’t just head bangers with a special affection for shaping trees. A few milliseconds before impact, the tongue actually wraps around the skull to protect it and some even have a membrane that covers the eye to avoid flying splinters.
The first part, “Hunters & Herds,” and the second, “Jungle,” is evidence that the wildlife documentary can not only delight, disgust and educate, it can show an innovative approach to filmmaking. Ultimately, as with most entertainment, a well told story and its execution is dependent upon the viewer’s empathy, interest or connection to the lives of those featured. Whether they be human or animal, the goal is the same: the viewer ought to feel something. “Moment of Impact” is a captivating view of the world from the smallest, yet hardly insignificant perspective available. Moreover, it makes you feel alive, revealing the beauty and grandeur of the world and its inhabitants.