An occasional series of programmes themed by "Slow TV", broadcast in the UK by BBC Four
Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman goes behind the scenes at the National Gallery in a journey to the heart of a museum inhabited by masterpieces of Western art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
The birdsong of sunrise in all its uninterrupted glory, free from the voiceover and music of traditional television. With the first glimmers of sunlight, the birds of Britain's woodland, heathland and parkland burst into song. This is an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a portrait of three very different habitats and the natural splendour of their distinctive chorus.
The first episode in the Handmade series, part of BBC Four Goes Slow, is a beautifully-filmed portrait of the making of a simple glass jug. Filmed in real time and without voiceover or music, the film's focus is entirely on the craft process, an absorbing, repetitive process of blowing and rolling as glass designer Michael Ruh delicately teases and manipulates the molten glass into shape. Ruh is a designer of contemporary glass objects, but the method by which he creates them is essentially ancient. Glass is heated in a crucible until it becomes liquid. Ruh's task, shared with his assistant, is to keep the glass hot and in constant motion as he breathes into it and gradually shapes the expanding globe into the form of a jug.
As part of BBC Four Goes Slow, this programme follows the forging of a steel knife. From the slow stoking of the fire to the hammering, welding and etching of the metal, the film is an absorbing portrait of the complex processes behind the making of the knife. Forged in a spectacular industrial space, bladesmith Owen Bush uses a combination of modern and traditional techniques, some of which date to ancient times. The most time-consuming element of the process is the shaping and blending of a sandwich of steels into a blade which, after polishing is placed in a bath of acids, revealing an intricate pattern - a technique used by the Vikings and Saxons. The bold style of the film-making, making use of long, static shots and with no music or commentary, allows the viewer to simply enjoy watching the painstaking and highly skilled craftsmanship.
A two-hour, real-time canal boat journey down one of Britain's most historic waterways, the Kennet and Avon Canal, from Top Lock in Bath to the Dundas Aqueduct. Using an uninterrupted single shot, the film is a rich and absorbing antidote to the frenetic pace and white noise of modern life. Taking in the images and sounds of the British countryside, underpinned by the natural soundscape of water lapping, surrounding birdsong and the noise of the chugging engine, this is a chance to spot wildlife and glimpse life on the towpath while being lulled by the comforting rhythm of a bygone era. Along the journey, graphics and archive stills embedded into the passing landscape deliver salient facts about the canal and its social history.
As part of BBC Four Goes Slow, this programme follows the slow and painstaking process of making a classic Windsor chair. A beautifully simple object, it is in fact anything but. Filmed over five days, the film reveals the complex, time-consuming processes involved in creating the chair, made by Jim Steele in his Warwickshire workshop. This traditional design features woods chosen for their different qualities - ash, elm and hard-to-source yew. Jim makes just twelve such chairs each year, using traditional techniques and aided by few modern tools. There are just two screws in the finished chair. From the steam bending of the back to the turning of spindles, the carving of the seat to the planing of the arms, it's a remarkable process to observe. The bold style of the film, making use of long, static shots with no music or commentary allows the viewer to admire in exquisite detail the painstaking craftsmanship.
In a Slow TV Christmas special, BBC Four rigs a traditional reindeer sleigh with a fixed camera for a magical journey across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Following the path of an ancient postal route, the ride captures the traditional world of the Sami people who are indigenous to northern Scandinavia and for whom reindeer herding remains a way of life. Filmed in Karasjok, Norway - 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle - this journey takes us through breathtaking scenery not normally glimpsed by anyone other than the Sami. Deliberately unhurried, the rhythmic pace of the reindeer guides us along an epic two-hour trip that takes us over undulating snowy hills, through birch forests, across a frozen lake and past traditional Sami settlements. Facts about the reindeer, natural history, Sami culture and the Arctic climate are delivered by graphics and archive stills embedded into the passing landscape. With no commentary, music or presenter - just the crunching of snow and the soft tinkle of a reindeer bell - this hypnotic sleigh ride is an enchanting experience to put everyone in the Christmas spirit.