The BBC’s natural history unit have shed new light on television cables and their secret entanglements behind the TV stand. Using revolutionary time-lapse photography, wildlife cameraman James Forester captured previously unseen footage of the complex interaction between aerial wires, power cables and SCART leads in their natural habitat.
Writing in the journal Nature, Forester described how he fought hours of tedium whilst filming his prey’s seemingly imperceptible movements. ‘Lying on the living room floor for hours on end with your arm hooked around the back of the telly isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of fun,’ he admitted, ‘but luckily the latest Harry Potter film was on Sky Box Office and if I cricked my neck enough I could see most of the screen.’
Forester’s ground breaking work in lifting the veil on this little-known realm will feature in a major new BBC documentary series, Hidden World. The series will show for the first time how a swarm of cables’ ever-changing social dynamic causes their originally neat and straight migration routes to slowly evolve into an impenetrable tangle of competing wires.
‘In one particularly dramatic scene, the dominant SCART lead is challenged by the arrival of a new HDMI cable from a Blu-Ray player,’ Forester reveals. ‘Despite being laid neatly to one side, several inches away from the swarm, within days it’s hanging from the extension lead, knotted in a half clove hitch. Meanwhile the now banished SCART lays forlorn and unplugged next to a pile of old VHS tapes.’
Thanks to a fortuitous accident, the documentary will also show similar occurrences behind a computer desk, after Forester’s webcam fell off his screen and down the back of his PC. ‘For years we thought that keyboard cables ruled the roost in that particular ecosystem, but now we have conclusive proof that it’s the mouse that roars when it comes to getting tangled up.’
Hidden World will hit our screens later this year and, in a move designed to promote the BBC’s free-to-air high definition service, will be available in HD on Freeview. ‘Viewers will be able to watch the secret world of the television cable in crystal-clear resolution,’ announced a BBC spokesman, ‘assuming they can work out how to connect the new set-top box of course.’