2016 Ends With a Plague of Locusts, But At Least Planet Earth Were There To Film Them

By James O Malley on at

Ah, 2016, you've been pretty hideous all things considered. So it is perhaps only fitting that the year is more or less ending with a plague of locusts, on a pretty much Biblical scale.

On last night's fourth episode of Planet Earth II, one of the featured animals - or more accurately - approximately one billion of the featured animals, were locusts in Madagascar.

The footage was simultaneously awe-inspiriting and horrifying, but you wouldn't want to open your mouth to gasp in the midst of the swarm. It was also fascinating to see the "behind the scenes" section afterwards, which really demonstrated the difficulty in capturing the footage. But how much hard work as was it? Camera man Rob Drewett was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

In the footage at the end we saw him and his colleagues making "jazz hands" to try and shepherd the locusts into view of the camera. It appears that this might have been some clever improvisation. "The longer we tried to film the locust hoppers the more we learnt the rules", he explains, adding, "If you wanted them to pass through your frame you had to set the camera up trigger it remotely and herd the locust into shot".

So how difficult were they to actually film? "Once we found them it was pretty easy, it was the finding them that was difficult", says Rob. And luckily, they were able to get all of the footage that David Attenborough's dulcet tones later required. "When we left we had a shot list, sometimes you have to adapt if you don’t see the behaviour you need to film but on this occasion we were luckily enough to get everything we needed."

But don't let that make it sound straightforward as the team were significantly off the beaten track. "The living conditions were pretty dire, as we were chasing the locust they were taking us to parts of Madagascar that no tourist ever visits."

"We ended up being located at a town in the north west of Madagascar. This town only had one guest house with only street food to eat which took the crew down one by one. We had found this place because it was the only area where the helicopter could be refuelled."

And what of the most important question that surely everyone viewing was thinking: Did anyone end up accidentally swallowing any locusts in the midst of the swarm? "No crew ate any but I often came back with a few still down my pants", Rob says.

Shudder.

When he's not thousands of miles way, battling tough conditions to film insects, Rob is the CEO of Motion Impossible, a company that makes an awesome-looking remote dolly system for filming in VR. We can only imagine how terrifying the locusts footage would be in 360 degrees.