[Ed] So there is the court, right there. You can see the kind of clear patch of forest, and there is one nice stick, that is the main… the main court stick. — [Eric] You can’t obtain the close, intimate looks at birds without working out of a blind. You have to sort of hide or disappear into the forest if you want to be able to get that close to the animals. I’m Eric Liner and I’m a cinematographer and producer with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and I had the good fortune of working and filming with Ed and Tim on the Birds-of-Paradise Project. — [Tim] Two little trees, right here. — [Eric] The first thing we would do when we’d arrive at a display site is identify the best perspective to film from. We’d try to find the spot that’s least obstructed, where the sun isn’t going to be problematic if it moves throughout the day, try to find the least distracting backgrounds to film against. And once we’d identify that spot where we wanted to work, it was time to build a blind or hide. The difference working in the jungle versus working in the United States is that we actually couldn’t transport our blinds, that we’re limited with how much equipment we’re able to take. And so what we would do, is we’d communicate to the locals who we were working with, where we wanted to be, the height of the blind, where the opening should be for the windows, and once we’re all sort of on the same page about where the blind is gonna go, that’s when the real magic begins, that’s when the blind building starts. And the guys we’d be working with would just disappear, just, you know, immediately disperse into the forest. And you’d hear the thwacking sounds of their machetes as they’re taking down small saplings or palm fronds. And within moments, they’re all coming back from the forest with big arm loads of materials to construct these blinds. The key tool in that process is the machete. There isn’t anything that they can’t do with a machete. It is like the duct tape of the jungle tools. There isn’t anything that can’t be fixed or anything that can’t be made with a machete in hand. It’s really impressive and quite remarkable just how efficient, effective, and skillful they are. They’ll use vines for a sort of natural lashing material to lash together the branches for a frame. And then they’ll make this tight thatch of fronds that will serve as basically the camouflage material around the blind. In what seems like sort of no time at all, they’ve constructed a very robust and, because it matches all the natural environment, a very hidden blind. The structures could be anything from a simple cube or square to these just fantastic, sophisticated egg-like structures high in the canopy. You can’t help but be impressed with the quality and the effectiveness of the structure, the blinds, that the people of Papua New Guinea are able to construct out of materials that they find all around them in the forest. It’s worth keeping in mind that the intimate images and incredible behaviors that Tim and Ed have been able to capture over the course of their work on the Birds-of-Paradise Project are due in large part to the blinds that locals help them create in order to film the birds and really disappear into the forest. — [Tim] That’s nice. There’s fruits up there, so we’re hoping those birds will come and feed on it. I’m now in a blind at the display site of a Magnificent Riflebird. One of the black birds-of-paradise, he has an amazing display. That’s him, he’s calling. He’s just up above on a high vine up in the canopy. But he has another vine right in front of me, over here, just outside my blind, where he’s been displaying the past couple afternoons. So I’m quietly waiting here in my blind to get shots of him when he comes down. [Explore more at birdsofparadiseproject.org, youtube.com/LabofOrnithology]

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All the high-tech cameras in the world won’t capture close-up images of skittish birds without one decidedly low-tech accessory: a filming blind. The blind hides people and equipment so they don’t disturb the birds. This video features how local New Guineans used their intimate knowledge of the rainforest to build sturdy blinds using little more than saplings, vines, and machetes. Filmed and photographed by Tim Laman. Explore more at www.birdsofparadiseproject.org