Review – Sunrise Earth

I purchased an HDTV a couple of years ago to watch the Bears play the Colts in the Super Bowl. However, the first program I actually enjoyed watching on the new set was a series called Sunrise Earth.  Originally on the Discovery HD Channel (now HD Theater), Sunrise Earth is a pretty simple concept: show the sun rise somewhere in the world.

The light right before sunrise is called “the magic hour” by cinematographers because there is a golden color that fades out in the broad light of day.  The first show I caught was the sunrise over Machu Picchu in South America.  Nestled in between mountains, the ancient stone city looked like a movie set of Shangri-La.  Slowly, the scene shifted and I could see the lichens growing on the rocks of the buildings and the low grass on the paths where alpacas roamed unmolested (after a few moments, unobtrusive white text in the lower left corner of the screen corrected me: they were llamas, not alpacas).

As wonderful as the visuals are, the sound is unlike anything else on television.  On radio we called it “natural sound”: collecting samples of the ambient environment to give listeners a feeling of place.  One of my favorite shows was one featuring a Mayan pyramid rising out of the jungles of central America.  I flipped it on at lunchtime (I have a DVR, so I don’t have to get my sunrise fix at dawn) and suddenly there was this low growling tone.  I froze; sandwich halfway to my mouth.  My first thought was dinosaur.  It turned out to be howler monkeys in the jungle.

Sunrise Earth is not a flashy show.  There is no music, no narration.  For an hour, all you hear is the distant roar of a waterfall or the twittering of birds.  I am amazed by the silences.  The shots tend to be static – no zooms, no pans – and they can run over a minute long without cutting away.  The conceit of the show is the delivery medium: high definition.  It allows the viewer to look – I mean, really look at the details captured in the images and listen to the ambient environment of a place.  It’s like a spread in National Geographic magazine come to life.



  1. Did they separate you and Greg at birth? He watches this with either Ben or Zach, depending on who’s awake. It’s funny how the two of you do many things that are the same. And it’s not even planned.

  2. I have a great idea for a Sunrise Earth program. Even a few good ideas but one in particular. Maybe I should contact them about it. It would not be a static shot however. Gotta keep it to myself for now.

  3. I believe you can submit suggestions to the “Viewer’s Choice” web page on their site. If you’ve taken pictures of the sunrise before, there’s a place for that too.

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