Staffordshire Hoard on National Geographic Channel

This Sunday at 9 PM EST, the National Geographic Channel will broadcast an hour-long documentary about the Staffordshire Hoard called Lost Gold of the Dark Ages.

It’s going to have the usual unhealthy complement of goofy medieval battle recreations, but hopefully there will be plenty of hard facts and, most importantly, some great photography of the hoard itself.

With none of the artefacts bigger than your hand and most considerably smaller, my director of photography Mike Craven Todd has brought with him a set of Dedolights which at 150 watts are powerful enough to light the entire area but can be ‘spotted down’ to a tiny pin prick of light. We’re shooting the show on XD Cam, a blue-ray based camera system, so with the lens fitted with a close up dioptre a large HD video monitor is fired up and we get our first glimpse of the treasure in all its close-up glory.

Everyone present, from the conservators, archaeologists and camera crew the only word that seems to be on everyone’s lips is Wow!

Most of the people that have looked at and handled the artefacts, have only seen them with their naked eye. In macro close-up, they’re seeing new amazing details for the first time. They can see that some of the artefacts are rubbed smooth and worn indicating that they must have already been old when they were placed in the ground almost 1500 years ago. They can see damage that might have occurred when they were being used – perhaps in battle. They can see how well cut, polished and shaped the garnets are – if we need a high tech, high definition camera to see such detail, how on earth did the craftsmen who made them manage to see what they were doing?

The companion website has a cool interactive component which allows you to select from a dozen individual items from the hoard to view close up and from every angle.

This is not specifically related to the Hoard but apparently there will be performers reciting Old English poetry as part of the goofy re-enactments. Here’s a short behind the scenes clip that features a lovely reading of an Old English poem. It’s mellifluous and beautiful and sounds nothing at all like my high school teacher’s hacking attempts at Beowulf.