First, I’d like to explore the “Is it fake nature” part of my post’s title:

“The 1958 Disney documentary into lemmings that won the academy award. Footage of lemmings jumping off cliffs was later found out to be faked. Edited version just showing the fake footage.”

My guess is that most of you reading this post are not old enough to have watched the above television show when it was first broadcast in 1958.  (I will admit that I remember it vividly.  It was one of the first colour TV shows I saw as a child on our family’s new colour TV set.)  Imagine my surprise and horror (Disney “cheated”???) when it was learned that it wasn’t a “real” documentary at all, but that the lemming scene had been faked. (See Lemming Suicide Myth Disney Film Faked Bogus Behavior, The Truth about Norwegian Lemmings, White Wilderness.)

I thought about this recently when I read How Nature Documentaries are Fake: A Filmmaker’s Perspective, by DL Cade, on PetaPixel.  Cade writes:

“When you watch nature documentaries like the BBC’s famous Planet Earth series, do you take for granted that everything you’re seeing is 100% real? We wouldn’t blame you if you did, but as Simon Cade of DSLRguide explains in this video, you’d be wrong….While the amount of “manipulation” that takes place in the cutting room of a nature doc varies with the editor and how far the producer is willing to push the truth, the fact is: every nature documentary is edited to tell a story.”  Watch the video below, and read the post, and think about it through the lens of “fake news”.

Cade ends with a question: “Is it disappointing that nature docs, even the best ones, are at least somewhat manipulated to help tell a story and engage their audience? Sure. But the music-less 24 hour live stream called “reality” is probably not your idea of the perfect nature documentary either.”

Let’s check that out with a few nature live-streams. How long can you watch one of  these streams, with no story line, and little/no sound? Nature in motion: live cameras from around the world,  Audubon Top 10 Wildlife Web Cams, Explore,  offer lots of choices.  Some have natural sound, but most are silent. Some are “professional” setups from zoos and sanctuaries, and some or “home-made” setups focused on bird feeders or fish tanks. You’ll probably want to choose one in your own time zone, so as not to be staring at a dark, night-time screen from the other side of the world (or, look for nocturnal animals in your own time zone!).

This is the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam live stream.

To read more about this subject, see  These Are Some Of The Sketchy Ways Nature Documentaries Are Actually Filmed,

‘Er, this bit isn’t real’: New David Attenborough series will tell viewers which shots are faked,

BBC ‘fakes wildlife shots all the time’: Veteran cameraman claims species ‘smaller than rabbits’ are filmed on custom-built sets 

And one last video.

” I am shocked that many people cannot see the computer generated imagery in this scene from BBC’s Planet Earth documentary. In the past the BBC has been accused of faking scenes in its documentaries. I am not disputing the camera crew was not there, because they was. I’m not saying they didn’t film snakes and iguanas, because they did. What I am saying is that this specific chase scene in this video was fabricated using CGI, to enhance the drama and entertainment of the moment. ” (link)

What do you think? Is a heavily edited, CGI-ed nature documentary “fake news” using free actors? Should we be looking at them far more critically than we used to? Can we use them in the classroom without very critical analysis? Should such a nature documentary move from a science classroom to the IT lab, as a lesson in how to create digital stories?