Thursday, 30 April 2009

Predators everywhere ...

The past few weeks and in particular the past few days have brought some outstanding content. Yesterday, I was working on trying to get our new streaming platform working properly (sorry about all the hassles, but it is getting better) and I suddenly noticed that Karula was hunting!! I saw her tail sticking out onto the road as the impala walked just a few feet from her and I was convinced that she was about to make our 5th LIVE leopard kill. I called Emily over to watch, but at the critical moment the impala spotted her tail and darted out of range. At the moment the impala saw her tail I heard Pieter's camera click and I knew that pic would be great ... it was and it is above here.
When Pieter sent through the pic he included so many awesome images taken over the past few weeks that I thought I had to show you somehow. I decided to make a small video of them and here it is ...

... I should have done it at a slightly higher quality, and taken a bit more time to pick out individual images, as there are some real beauties, but alas, there is never enough time. :)
As you all know WE have had lions hanging around for the past two weeks ... the Styx pride! Twice they have hunted while WE have been watching and the Jigga came upon them shortly after having killed a waterbuck recently. So you never know, WE might get to see the first LIVE successful lion hunt and kill while they are around. (Obviously it won't be the first time that a lion kill (carcass being eaten) has been broadcast LIVE, but nobody has yet broadcast the actual hunt and kill LIVE yet.)
The Gowrie dam is picking up in action and the bush is beginning to dry out ... WE now enter the season of maximum content on our beloved Djuma ... enjoy ... it is in your nature.

Monday, 27 April 2009

WE love WE!

If you love WE please send us a video of yourself telling us why. Just like the video above, WE would like to make a little video of our crew and viewers sharing their feelings, memories and thoughts about what WE means to them. Please send the videos to . It doesn't matter if you film them with your mobile phones (like the one we did above) or with the video cameras on your PCs or a camcorder. Just look into the camera and tell the world why you love WE on our 2nd birthday. Thanks for all you do ... its in your nature.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Happy Birthday WildEarth

Tomorrow is the 27th April and it is our 2nd birthday. The 27th of April is also Freedom day in South Africa and is the day we commemorate becoming a democratic country, 15 years ago. Viva, South Africa!! 
Two years ago WE went LIVE with our 24 hour per day window into Africa. As many of you will remember there were only 80 'slots' available on our video servers at that time, and today WE are serving over 150,000 stream starts per day. It has taken a great deal of effort and dedication from many people to be able to still be doing this two years on. The support from you, our valued viewers (the WE family), is what makes it possible for us to do what WE do. It is the knowledge that there are people all around the world relying on us to overcome every and any problem (I won't list them, you know what I mean), that gives us the motivation to solve every issue. There is something beautiful about this silent connection around the world, something hard to understand and even harder to explain, but it is what makes us stand apart from all other wildlife broadcasters ... it is in our nature. Thank you.
This evening the Fire Side Chat will go ahead as normal, but tomorrow, just after the African sun dips below the horizon, WE will be celebrating our second journey round the sun since WE began. You are invited to be a part of our celebrations, be a part of our birthday party at 19h00 CAT. WE will sing and dance by the fire, WE will discuss the journey so far and remember the highs and lows. (There will be no night drive after the party.)

WE would like to thank you all for your patience over the past few weeks as our archives have not been working, our schedule was changed (back to normal now), some have had difficulty with stream freezing, there has been a nasty element or two in the chat rooms, and other niggling issues. There is so much going on behind the scenes at the moment, and our third year promises to bring with it some real WE magic. I promise to write soon about all that is going on and catch you all up on the vision of our future.

Friday, 17 April 2009

WE are at WildTalk

The next week will see a very disrupted schedule at WildEarth, and unfortunately it is not very well oriented to our all important North American audience. You see, WE are at WildTalk Africa in Durban South Africa until Thursday next week, and WE need to ensure that as much of our premium content is concentrated into the time that our stand is active at the conference, which is during our daytime. WE are also doing two presentations, and the LIVE feed from Djuma plays a role in these too. (Please visit our schedule to see what's planned)
Please appreciate that WE are fully aware that this does not suit our valued viewers, and that is why WE usually work from so early in the morning until so late at night, but for these few days it is important that WE put our best foot forward during our (CAT) daylight times.
It is an important conference because this is our opportunity to try and convince the wildlife TV industry that LIVE broadcasting has a role to play, and one day in the future, you might get an opportunity to see LIVE wildlife on your own TV. Companies like Earth-Touch, AfriCam, National Geographic, Animal Planet, WildEarth and the BBC, and so many others will be discussing and showcasing what it is that makes us all  special and unique.
On another note, you will have noticed the change in aspect ratio to 16:9 and you might have noticed the increase in resolution. Well one of the short term consequences of these upgrades, is that the archives are not working. The reason is that WE have changed from the VP6 codec to the better H.264 codec and this is a touch harder to archive. Zaplive are doing their level best to work on this, but WE kinda dumped them in this on a weekend so they may only be able to get it working during next week. Frankly this was a mistake on my part, but I promise that it will be worked out. Sometimes we make mistakes ... well, it's in my nature.
Also, getting our new super high speed line in has proved somewhat more complex than expected and so this will only be working on Monday, all things going according to plan. You have no idea how many dedicated people are working on this project. 
Finally, Pete and the Djuma crew are burning the midnight oil trying to get the final touches to our digital Final Control working. And if that was not all; the Jigga has decided to burn out some of it's electrics just as WE need them the most! Pieter and Eric are hard at it and while the morning drive is super unlikely, you know us, every effort will be made to get that safari back on the road. 
So its a big SORRY for the problems, but hopefully the new systems will be worth it in the end, and more importantly, and with a bit of luck, this will be the moment when not only does the wildlife filmmaking world start taking a bit more notice of us LIVE broadcasters, but also an opportunity for us all to come a little closer together. ;-) 

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The clan are back.

The spotted hyenas are back on Djuma. This clan has been living in the area for ages. The den is in a very thick area on the river bank close to Spagheti junction, between Bateleur and Nyala road south. Only the two smallest  cubs are there permanantly, the larger two are there sometimes but also quite often out with the adults now. WE have seen them feeding on a buffalo leg, giraffe leg and remains of an impala carcass over the last few days (WE don't know where they brought it from). There are a total of 10 in the clan; Floppy-ear, the matriarch, two smaller and two larger cubs and 5 other adults, all looking healthy. Below is a photograph taken last year at the old den site where you can clearly see the small notch in the left ear of the one cub, same fella in the above pic taken this week.
The youngster with the left ear notch seems to be extra inquisitive, and regularly comes to have a look at the vehicle. They have been seen very regularly on day and night safaris, and WE are super happy to have the clan home.
Over the next few days there are going to be a variety of difficult to schedule disruptions to the WildEarth channel feed from Djuma on both the Internet and IPTV channels in the UK. These disruptions will obviously be kept to a minimum, but they are necessary as WE switch over onto our digital Final Control, change our service from a 4:3 aspect ratio to 14:9 (maybe 16:9) and massively increase our stream speed to our TV viewers in the UK. To do all of this means that a variety of technicians from various organizations in South Africa, Germany, Holland, England and the United States will coordinate the installation of a super high speed line directly from Djuma to Rotterdam in Holland, a serious server infrastructure in Holland, the decommissioning of our old server system in South Africa, and the reconnecting of the new streams into the SomethingTV head end and the Zaplive distribution system.
I have no doubt that there will be problems, set backs, frustrations and a variety of other thoughts and emotions. WE ask for your patience and consideration. When complete the service will be different from before and there will be some who will not like the changes. Please understand that these changes are not a sign that WildEarth does not care about you, or are working hard to make your viewing harder, worse or different for the sake of it. WE need to make our stream more TV compatible and of a higher technical standard. This will benefit our Internet viewers as well. When complete our stream will fit a widescreen (TV and PC) much better and the resolution of the image on full screen will be much better for our IPTV viewers and a bit better for our Internet viewers.

Friday, 3 April 2009

WElcome Kaiser

Kaiser Charles Malapane was born to the Shangaan Tribe 29 years ago. His family live in Thulamahashe which is close to the Sabi Sands. Unlike many of his peers he did not grow up in the bush but both his parents worked in the Timbavati and Kaiser often spent time there being taught about the bush by his parents. Becoming a guide was something he always wanted to do and his first job was at the Chimanimani Camp in the Timbavati. Since then he has guided extensively in this area but recently has moved away to guide at Madikwe Game Reserve. Since arriving there he has desperately missed the Sabi Sands which he calls 'paradise'. He has a passion for the cats here (don't we all) especially Karula who he knew as a cub. One day, whilst tracking with a friend he found Karula for the first time. She was so young her eyes were still closed. WildEarth are very excited to have Kaiser on the team and welcome his extensive knowledge of cats and their history in the area. WE hope you enjoy being with the WildEarth family and stay with us for a long time.

On another note we are changing the night drive schedule for the next week. Because of Moses's sudden departure and Pieter and Lieschen being on leave it has been exhausting for the crew that have been on the ground to do the three drives a day and the walk. Therefore we have cancelled the night drive for tonight, but will have one on Sunday (5th April|) night and also one next Wednesday (8th April). The rest will be cancelled until Saturday 11th April and then we will resume as normal with one every night. WE apologise for this but feel it is important to give our hardworking crew a bit of a rest. WE are sure that you will understand. Its in your nature!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Auto stop and archiving eagles

Over the past few days WE have noticed a massive increase in viewers to the Hancock Wildlife cams, but on doing some experimentation WE discovered that many of the viewers were in fact not there. In other words a lot of people are leaving the cams running when they are not watching. On the Internet both the broadcaster and the viewer have to pay for the bandwidth and that means that WE (actually Zaplive) are paying for the bandwidth even when no one is watching. Obviously that is not fair and so WE have implemented an auto stop (on all WildEarth streams, both Hancock cams and the Djuma stream). This effectively means that every 1 hour you will be asked to click the screen in order to prevent the stream from stopping automatically. This will prevent a situation of where costs are being run up but nobody is watching.
Some people have been letting the streams run because they are recording them, particularly the Hancock eagle cams, and WE understand this need. So from tomorrow morning all Hancock streams will be archived and be available in the WEarchive, soon they will be available from right inside the player (so you can find them from the Hancock website). Additionally you will now be able to create seekpoints in the Hancock cams as well as on the Djuma stream. I hope that you can all appreciate our need to make what WE do viable and to eliminate wastage.