Casting a Huge Net: TERRA Filmmakers Post Free Nature Films on Web (Video Podcast)

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New video podcast challenges the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. With over 15,000 downloads and counting, "TERRA: The Nature of Our World" is making a bigger splash than your typical wildlife show; it is a chance to experience a uniquely cutting-edge vision of the natural world through the eyes of passionate student & independent filmmakers who are discovering the next frontiers of research, re-vitalizing compelling issues, and celebrating the diversity of our natural environment.

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Normally one doesn't expect this quality of work from students before they even graduate, but they are already making an impressive mark in the world of science and natural history film.

A film about the relationship of wolves and elk in Yellowstone is just one of nine full-length nature films now available for download at no cost from the TERRA website.

Montana State University film students have tapped a new technology that enables worldwide audiences to view their cutting-edge nature films free of charge.

Students from MSU's Science and Natural History Filmmaking graduate program, in partnership with Montana PBS, have used the new Internet technology of webcasting, also called video podcasting or vodcasts, to post nature films about local, national and international environmental issues on the World Wide Web.

The film series, about topics as diverse as grizzly bears and Mars, is called "TERRA: The Nature of Our World." The films can be accessed at the TERRA website ( or by a search for "TERRA" in the Apple iTunes music store. Those using the second option need iTunes software, which can be downloaded for free at the iTunes store.

TERRA films have been downloaded more than 15,000 times since the site was launched in October. Another 3,000 computer users from six continents have also visited the TERRA site, according to Eric Bendick, a graduate student in the MSU Science and Natural History Filmmaking program from Rhode Island and associate producer of the TERRA series.

"We're looking at a new means of delivering science education," Bendick said. "There are no fees for any of our shows. One of the things we were aware of is that there will be no limit to who can access (the films.)"

The Science and Natural Filmmaking students developed the TERRA series about a year ago. Bendick, a former marine science teacher who has a bachelor's degree from Brown, thought an Internet delivery of the educational nature films might be possible. He approached Ronald Tobias, director of the MSU program with the idea.

"I found the idea totally consonant with the goals of the graduate program," Tobias said. "Since we believe that scheduled television is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and that it will be replaced with on-demand content available through the Web, making TERRA available to anyone who has a computer is a way of reaching audiences around the world."

Tobias said he and his students believe that there will be more than 75,000 downloads from the site by the six-month anniversary of its launch in April.

Bendick said the idea for the site was rooted in his experience as a teacher who knows that it is difficult to find good educational content in the science and the arts.

"I think (webcasting) is the future of the media," Bendick said.

Bendick works to keep the content fresh on the site, posting at least two new films per month. There are currently nine full-length films and six short preview videos ranging from eight to 28 minutes available for download.

While the bulk of the initial films come from MSU filmmakers, there is also some non-MSU derived content from independent filmmakers, such as Darren Kipp's "View from the Shore," a Native American view of Lewis and Clark including commentary from Henrietta Mann, a prominent Indian scholar and special adviser to MSU President Geoff Gamble. Visitors to the site may subscribe to an e-mail alerting them to new offerings posted on the site as well as post their location on a virtual U.S. map. Viewers using the iTunes option may also subscribe so that new content is automatically updated and downloaded into the browser.

The TERRA site includes a detailed question and answer section about how to download the films and the necessary software.

Bendick said that the TERRA site is made possible by donations of images, fees, time and even music. Bendick and fellow TERRA producer Jo Young are applying for a grant to pay for future costs. By then, Bendick hopes that he will be involved in his own film about river ecology that he one day hopes to post to the site.

Tobias said that the Science and Natural History film students - an accomplished group whose work has been selected for more than a dozen major film festivals throughout the world, won an Emmy, a Fulbright Fellowship and seven Telly Awards as well as had their work aired on national network shows, not to mention museums and other outlets- have a few more innovative ideas.

"If we can keep the content fresh, we may expand our horizons even more during the next year," Tobias said. "Eric put us at the forefront of this new movement (with the podcasts).

"Normally one doesn't expect this quality of work from students before they even graduate, but they are already making an impressive mark in the world of science and natural history film."

February 2006 is Podcast Month at PRWeb. This press release distributed by PRWeb, the Online Visibility Company.

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