How was Blue Planet II filmed? Find out about the cameras behind the incredible undersea footage

Learn more about how the fantastical creatures of the deep were caught on camera for BBC One's latest wildlife series.

The brilliant Blue Planet II introduced Sunday evening audiences to the crazy and beautiful animals that live in the oceans. Nearly 13 million viewers tuned in to see the incredible shots that took four years to film. 

Alongside the final segment of the programme showing how the shots were captured, the accompanying YouTube channel BBC Earth introduces the technology behind the production.

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Filming the gigantic waves off Portugal

Capturing the huge waves off Nazare, Portugal required drone camera work, cameras on tripods, surfers and the right weather conditions. The windy weather even knocked the drone out. 

The surfer was used to put the wave into perspective and show how dangerous the 100 feet tall waves can be.

Putting a camera on a sperm whale

Underwater shots with a family of sperm whales took us right into their world, and the shots of the baby sperm whale attempting to dive with the adults for squid were only made possible by attaching cameras to the whales.

These small orange camera tags were placed on the whales using a fishing rod, and remained stuck on the mammals' bodies using suction caps. They were automatically released after 30 hours and the crew could locate the devices using the radio tags.

Taking on the Portuguese man o’war

Two brave camera crew members decided to take on the deadliest jelly fish which has stinging tentacles up to 30 metres long. To avoid being stung, Rafa Herrero and Andrea Casini covered themselves in neoprene and Vaseline when they spent three months filming off the Canary Islands.

They told the BBC, they designed new camera equipment – a specialist float rig. This meant the camera could glide along the same currents at the jellyfish.

The close up of the stingers were done in a specialist filming pen that could be attached to the side of a boat using a macro camera. This meant when conditions were stable enough to film, the crew could do it.  

[Read more: The most extreme clips captured on GoPro cameras]

Filming a walrus on an iceberg


The moving footage of a mother walrus trying to find a patch of sea ice for her cub to rest was an evocative way of showing the affects of climate change.

To get the shots, a specialist cameraman had to dive into the freezing Antarctic waters with a camera rig that weighs 50kg. It’s so big, it takes a team of three people to get it into the water.

However, the super-wide-angle camera means that the shot of the walrus and the iceberg could be captured perfectly.

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Sharks get too close for comfort

Seven hundred metres under the sea, you’re not too sure what you might find. In this case, the cramped three-person team in the submersible found some enormous six-gill sharks who took exception to being joined for dinner.

Luckily all the crew and their technology made it safely back up to the surface.

How to film in complete darkness


Mobula rays are not habitants of the sea floor, but instead live just below the surface. However, to film them you need to overcome the challenges of filming in pitch blackness.

A husband and wife camera team did just that, and used the technology to showcase the bioluminescence in the ocean.

What submarines were used?

To reach 1000m beneath the waves, two submersibles were used in the filming of Blue Planet II. They live aboard the research and exploration vessel, Alucia.

Three people can spend six to eight hours in the eight-tonne vehicle, but it can take up to 12 hours to film the required footage. The bubble through which you see is made up of acrylic seven inches thick – protection you would like when heading down into the unknown!

One of the submersibles is fitted with 8K cameras in order to see the tiniest of creatures.

[Read more: TV viewers terrified as Blue Planet heads into The Deep]

Jon Copley, a marine biologist, passionately explains why it is so important to explore the deep ocean. 

"We don't yet know what we don't know", he told the BBC. "We can't explore it remotely, but it is absolutely necessary to physically visit these dark and unknown depths."

[Read more: 8 reasons why a photography beginner shouldn't be intimidated by professional cameras]

To film the Humboldt squid at the depths of nearly 1000 metres, the crew had to be in a submersible for eight hours. The creature can reach up to two metres long. 

Watch the below 360 video, and remember to click around the screen to see what it's like to dive that far beneath the waves. 

What does it take to be a Blue Planet II cameraman? 

To find out what the 9-5 of a cameraman working on this incredible series is, watch the video below. 

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