How to watch Planet Earth II in 4K HDR

UPDATE: You can now watch Planet Earth II in 4K through Sky Q. An engineer working on a demo download of the show tweeted that the 4K excerpt is now available to Sky Q owners. 

You can find it in the Catch Up section of Sky Q. Go to iPlayer and head to Try Ultra HD. 

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The stunning BBC wildlife documentary Planet Earth II was shot in 4K with HDR technology, but until now we could only view the footage in (still beautiful looking) 1080i.  

However, the BBC is now testing broadcast technology that allows Planet Earth II to be shown in both 4K resolution and HDR through the BBC iPlayer. 

The technology is known as hybrid log-gamma (HLG) and could pave the way for more BBC shows (as well as shows from other broadcasters) hitting our screens in the future. 

Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC Research & Development has explained how 4K and HDR in particular can give viewers an experience they’ve never seen before on their TVs: “One of the clips is a frog on a leaf with lots of rain, and the reason this is so interesting is that the redness of the frog is a really deep Ferrari red that you would never get in broadcast television at the moment”.

How to watch Planet Earth II in 4K HDR in the BBC iPlayer app

At the moment the BBC is only trialling the 4K HDR broadcast of Planet Earth II, so you won’t be able to watch a full episode at the moment, but rather a compilation of scenes that can truly show off the technology.

Hopefully, as the trial continues the amount of footage available will expand.

Currently only the latest 4K TVs from Panasonic can view the trial. If you have a new Panasonic TV, make sure the TV has the latest firmware installed (this can be checked through the TV’s ‘Settings’ menu), then open up the BBC iPlayer app that’s installed on the TV. 

Once you launch the app you’ll be greeted with the screen below asking if you want to take part in the UHD (ultra high definition) trial. Select ‘Try it’ to view the footage.

We’ve contacted the BBC to see when other TV manufacturers will be able to show this footage, and while the exclusivity to Panasonic’s sets is disappointing, Layton has assured that “we want to use this [test] as a trigger to work with manufacturers to get their products updated so there's a pathway there for future on-demand BBC content."

How to watch Planet Earth II in 4K HDR on Blu-ray

While Planet Earth II is available on standard HD Blu-ray, the BBC hasn’t released it on UHD Blu-ray, which would offer the show in native 4K. 

Hopefully as 4K UHD Blu-ray players become more popular, the BBC will rethink this and announce a Planet Earth II 4K HDR UHD Blu-ray in the future.

  • Thinking about making the jump to 4K? Here's our guide to the best 4K TVs.
Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.