Brought to life: David Attenborough inside London?s Natural History Museum.

Brought to life: David Attenborough inside London's Natural History Museum.

In his 60 years of travelling the world making nature documentaries there haven't been too many animals Sir David Attenborough hasn't had contact with, from tiny insects to giant whales. But ever since he was a young child, and would wander the hallways of London's Natural History Museum, he has wondered what it would be like to interact with extinct animals, with the likes of dodos, sabre tooth tigers and dinosaurs.

Now, thanks to some ground-breaking technology, he's come as close as possible to knowing.

David has been going to the Natural History Museum since he was a young boy and he's passionate about the place. 

David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive is a special collaboration between cinematography experts and curators from the museum.

Dream team: Anthony Geffen with David Attenborough at the  Galapagos Islands.

Dream team: Anthony Geffen with David Attenborough at the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Robert Hollingworth

It's like Night at the Museum but a lot less corny and a lot more informative. As the doors close for the night and a mischievous Attenborough slips behind a display to avoid being seen by the guard you know that there's some excitement about to be had. The lights go out, a dinosaur's eye slowly opens and a fossil rises out of a rock slab, acquiring flesh and feathers before flying around the majestic Central Hall of the museum. Attenborough is in his element like never before.

Anthony Geffen, founder of Atlantic Productions and a producer on this feature, has worked with Attenborough on nine projects during the past five years and can remember toying with the idea of bringing the past alive.

''David has been going to the Natural History Museum since he was a young boy and he's passionate about the place,'' Geffen says. ''When we started to discuss the idea of making a film there, we realised that we could bring some of his favourite extinct creatures back to life in a totally scientific way by using computer-generated imagery. With each new project, we have tried to push the technical boundaries a little bit further.''

<i>Natural History Museum Alive</i> is available on DVD & Blu-ray, through Roadshow Entertainment.

Natural History Museum Alive is available on DVD & Blu-ray.

Geffen says the technology and the subject matter drive each other; that sometimes when a series starts, the production crew is still up in the air about how they will technically finish it.

''When working on Flying Monsters 3D, we discovered that looking at minute fossils was extraordinary in three dimensions so we began to work with specialist cameramen to develop new cameras that could look into the unseen world of plants.

''This led to us adapting the technology even further with a new lighting system so we could look at insects in Micro Monsters 3D.

''Multiplying all these techniques together with special underwater rigs, we explored the Galapagos in 3D. In Natural History Museum Alive we were pushing the advances of CGI in both 3D and 2D by recreating creatures which were based on science.''

Geffen says even though Attenborough has been making documentaries for 60 years, he has embraced the use of technology for his projects.

''David is fascinated by new technology,'' Geffen says.

''He is always finding ways to enhance his storytelling and bring the natural world to life.

''He has such a unique understanding of the natural world and he's an incredible storyteller.

''I grew up watching his programs, so it is very special to be working with him - and travelling to all corners of the world with him, from Galapagos to Northern China and Central Africa to Borneo.

''His infectious enthusiasm, knowledge and ever-inquiring mind means that we constantly see the natural world in a different way as we make these films. Even now in his late 80s, he still pushes the team to get the very best, and he is always fun to be with because of his great sense of humour.''

Geffen has worked in television for about 30 years, making films in his teens before graduating from Oxford and getting a traineeship with the BBC. In 1992, he set up Atlantic Productions, now one of the world's leading makers of high-end documentaries.

He believes that even in a technology-driven world people are still fascinated by nature and he sees the work that Atlantic and Attenborough are doing as a great merger of the two.

''We need to keep pushing the bar higher when it comes to storytelling,'' he says.

''At the high-end of documentary making, this means working across multiple platforms in a new, better way - to not just keep the 'eyeballs' we already have interested, but attract those that we don't.

''We can do this through apps and other forms of technology including virtual reality headsets.

''The only limitation to our imagination is often the constraints of technology. David has an incredible vision for his stories. Our teams of experts constantly look ahead in search of ways to make this vision possible, which often means creating new technology.''

Geffen has two young children and he says it's important to capture the imagination of new generations.

''Children of all ages across the world love David because of his approach to looking at the natural world. He captures children's imaginations with his enthusiasm and tales of the journeys he goes on.

''He also manages to make very complicated concepts understandable without being condescending in any way. Therefore, David is able to still capture a new generation, in a world that can be much more interesting than any fictional world.''

He says taking this approach across different platforms helps to hold the interest of the new generations. There are interactive apps for several of their collaborations. In the Natural History Museum Alive app, for example, you become David Attenborough and bring creatures back to life; in the Flying Monsters app, you can fly a Pterosaur. They have also developed exclusive content for Nintendo. A 3D clip from Kingdom of Plants was available for free download.

If there were no technological constraints what film would Attenborough and Geffen like to do?

''Our next 3D series Conquest of the Skies follows the development of animal flight over millions of years. It is very complicated to capture footage of creatures in the air. In 3D, there are no zoom lenses, which means we need to develop whole new systems to get close to the insects, birds and bats.

''I am currently on my way to Borneo with David to start filming this series, so let's see what happens,'' Geffen says.

Natural History Museum Alive is available on DVD & Blu-ray, through Roadshow Entertainment. 90 minutes. $19.95. Courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment, Relax has five copies of to give away. To win, email relax@canberratimes.com.au and tell us which extinct animal you would like to interact with and why.