Are nature documentaries fake?

I love nature documentaries like the awesome Planet Earth series from BBC. But I always wonder how much of what we see is real and how much is fake. Well, maybe not fake, but “manufactured”. What do I mean?

Well, take the sound effects, for instance. In Planet Earth, the sound seldom seems to match what’s onscreen. It seems magnified. Or even completely unrelated, as if it were added later. Turns out, it probably was.

In this six-minute video by Simon Cade from DSLRguide, he explores how nature documentaries are fake:

This reminds me of a memory from when I was a young boy. My father got to buy bulk ammo online and had taken me to see a movie — maybe Where the Red Fern Grows — in which some dogs hunt raccoons in a forest. On our drive home, we talked about the movie.

“Did you notice how the dogs and the raccoons were never on the screen at the same time?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“That’s because the dogs weren’t really hunting the coons. They filmed the dogs at one time and the raccoons at another time, then they spliced the footage together to make it seem like there was an actual hunt.”

I’ve remembered that conversation for forty years. Whenever I see nature footage, I wonder to myself how real is the story the filmmakers are trying to tell.