still from the 360 film Nectar, panoramic ring created at the Arboretum, Burrator
Year of release: 2010
Original format: HD video with timelapse and microscopic digital photographs
Running time: 6 minutes 9 seconds
Screening format: 5-screen 360 degree projection with ambisonic audio (DVD)
Credits: A film by Stuart Moore and Kayla Parker
Thanks to: Peter Bond and Martin Woolner
Thanks also to: Bill Finnemore, Plymouth Beekeepers Association; Dr Roy Moate, Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre; Sarah Hemingway and David Hotchkiss, Innovation for the Creative and Cultural Industries (ICCI); James O’Dowd, University College Plymouth, Marjon
Production: Sundog Media
Funded by ICCI as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme in the South West
Distribution and sales: Sundog Media and ICCI

Sensory experience of contrasting spatial environments is explored through the behaviour of bees. The first location is Burrator Arboretum on Dartmoor, where individual bees forage in the wild for nectar. Microscopic stop-motion creates a transitional space, which leads to the intense activity around the hives in a South Devon garden.

Production notes
We filmed and recorded the sound as July turned to August; the weather was cloudy with showers, the light muted except for occasional breaks when the sun shone through. There are two locations. The first is a clearing in woodland near Burrator where bumble bees and honeybees forage in the wild for nectar on the flowers of bramble and rosebay willowherb; the second location is a garden south of Dartmoor: here we filmed honeybees' behaviour close to their hive.

We used a range of digital imaging systems to create the visuals.

Our muted panorama of brambles, foxgloves, trees and clouds, a 360 degree 'wrap-around' view of the wood and sky, is shot with a panoramic video camera. Bees' interpretation of the visual spectrum is different to that of humans, and they 'see' into the ultra-violet range which enables them to navigate via polarised light, even on cloudy days. Some people can perceive part of the UV band after a cataract operation, and say it is like seeing a soft ghostly mauve-blue light: Claud Monet painted using a grey-violet colour palette after his cataracts were removed in 1923, in contrast to his paintings with a reddish hue before the operation.

HD video was used for the close-up shots of bees in and around the hive, and in flight.

Most of the film is animated from series of still photographs. The time-lapse photographs enable us to see patterns of movement of space and time, such as the spiral journey of bees around bramble flowers, and their wave-like flight; and the rhythms of colour produced as clouds move across the sun. We used a microscope to film the stop motion animation of the flower interiors, and a Scanning Electron Microscope to animate the sequence of bee communication.

Audio was recorded at the hives using the camera mic for synch sound, and recorded separately to the visuals on Dartmoor. The wood is in a deep valley which was flooded at the end of the 19th century to create Burrator reservoir, and is now surrounded by trees. The acoustic profile of the place enables us to record bees close to a microphone and distant sounds: we can hear the whinny of a wild pony on the edge of the wood as a group of pregnant mares comes down off Sheepstor at late afternoon to feed on the lush grass that grows in the clearing.

The sticky 'spattering' sound that runs throughout the film is the recording of the tongues of a small group of honeybees, clustered like the petals of a daisy, lapping at a pool of honey.

Nectar is a film that grows with repeated viewings, as each time we become aware of different aspects and details of the images and sounds that surround us in the circular cinema: at the end of the film look out for the bees 'talking' to one another by touching each other's antennae. The interweaving of the bees' and our sense of being 'in place' creates a memory of moments as flowers turn off their nectar one by one, and summer races into autumn.

Publication and comments
still from the film Nectar, showing one of five screen images, of the interior of a wild strawberry flowerInterior of wild strawberry flower
Time around Space 360 conference, Plymouth University (21 June 2013)

Welcome to the Treasuredome artists’ moving image event, ICCI 360 Arena, Weymouth seafront. Part of Maritime Mix - London 2012 Cultural Olympiad by the Sea (10 and 11 August 2012). Watch video of Nectar in the Treasuredome.

Count Me In: ICCI 360 Festival: a screening of Nectar opened the event, and was shown daily for the rest of the week. A London 2012 Cultural Olympiad event held in The Piazza, Plymouth, UK (premiere, 13 to 18 September 2010)