JOHN WATERS concludes his story of filmmaking in the Kalahari.

Trackwise a ladder dolly is great for moving along the classic meerkat line-up. However, the drawback is that the camera is fixed – its start and end points have to be worked out before the move starts. The other series 4 cameraman, Ralph Bower, developed what I can only describe as a pipe dolly. Camera, tripod and operator sit on the dolly which is pushed along a 3 metre track made from plastic plumbing pipe. The camera can be moved during the track which gives much more versatility in how the shot develops and ends.

We’ve also had a semi-circular track made up – again for use with the camcorder. We’ve had some great shots with it but it absolutely depends on the meerkats standing in just the right place…. and behaving themselves – like not flicking sand onto the track making the wheels judder.

The semi-circular track gives a wonderful change of perspective as it moves round the meerkats.

Helen Johnson and John Waters in the logging room where all the footage is viewed and categorised before being sent to London for editing.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on ‘Meerkat Manor’ is that we’re given almost total creative freedom. Experimentation with new equipment, or filming techniques or even ‘going abstract’ is positively encouraged and they all help in the style and story-telling of the programmes. But at the end of the day there is no substitute for putting in the time and legwork into simply following the meerkats around and filming in the ‘normal way’ the stories as they unfold.

by Oxford Scientific Films for Animal Planet International

John Waters & Helen Johnson - Ralph Bower & Laura Tobitt

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