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/TV Reviews

Reviews, comments and feedback on television programmes featuring themes of interest to dinosaur fans and fossil collectors by Everything Dinosaur team members.

21 09, 2011

Planet Dinosaur – Feathered Dragons Reviewed

By | September 21st, 2011|Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Episode Two of Planet Dinosaur – Feathered Dinosaurs

Some of the most important dinosaur discoveries over the last twenty years or so have come from the Liaoning Province of north-eastern China and it is these exciting feathered dinosaur finds that dominate episode two of the BBC’s new dinosaur television series.  The programme featured a myriad of cursorial (some arboreal) dinosaurs that roamed around the lush forests of this part of the world during the Cretaceous.  Great to see a Microraptor gliding from tree to tree, using its feather covered limbs to pursue its prey and to escape from potential predators.  Microraptor may be quite well known to the general public, but we doubt whether many viewers would have come across Epidexipteryx before.  This pigeon-sized dinosaur, with its bizarre appearance certainly showed viewers how diverse the dinosaur clade was.  In episode one, it was all about big Theropods, now in the second part of this six part series the production team want to show us just how unusual some dinosaurs were and Epidexipteryx was portrayed as an animal at home in the trees, using its long fingers, especially its extended second finger to dig out beetle grubs in the same way as the secretive Aye-Aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) does.

To read an article on the discovery of Epidexipteryx: Is it a Bird or a Plane? No it is Epidexipteryx!

Take the feathered hunter Sinornithosaurus, the narrator alluded to the controversial paper published in 2009 that proposed that this fast-running predator may have had a venomous bite.  It is always refreshing to see some of the latest ideas and discoveries brought to life, the fast paced direction helped animate these dinosaurs and give the impression of creatures that lived “life in the fast lane”.  The more recent research (2010) into the diurnal or nocturnal characteristics of certain dinosaurs got a mention.  This refers to the widely publicised study into the orbits (eye sockets) of Theropod dinosaurs: the point we made at the time, one that the CGI backdrop designers miss, is that these forests were probably dark with lots of thick undergrowth.  The study of the orbits of dinosaurs would need to consider the possibility of these animals hunting in low light levels.

Whether the feathers were for flight, display or insulation the programme provided an insight into our increasing knowledge of “feathered dragons”.  So pleasing to see “Big Bird) – Gigantoraptor (Gigantoraptor erlianensis) featured, certainly based on the fossil evidence this is likely to be the largest feathered animal known in the current fossil record.

To read an article on the discovery of this dinosaur: New Chinese Dinosaur – Gigantoraptor as Tall as a Giraffe

A Drawing of Gigantoraptor erlianensis

The largest feathered animal known to science

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Credit must be given to the programme makers for the imaginative way in which they have brought to the screen some of the recent feathered dinosaur discoveries.

14 09, 2011

Planet Dinosaur – Episode One “Lost World” Reviewed

By | September 14th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus Lead the Way in New BBC Television Series

Well, the first episode of the new BBC series “Planet Dinosaur” has hit the ground running with an insightful and informative trip to the Cretaceous of North Africa (Albian to Cenomanian faunal stage).  One of the objectives of this new six-part series was to bring viewers up to date with dinosaur discoveries that have been made in the years since “Walking with Dinosaurs” was first aired.  We were intrigued to see how the narration would work with the narrator, the distinguished actor John Hurt, providing a voice over to the CGI action as well as commentating on the parts of the programme that focused on the research.  The difficulty we envisaged was how the factual evidence from institutions such as the Chicago Field Museum would be blended with the story-telling.  The production team have managed to merge the dynamic CGI footage with the vertebrate palaeontology upon which the story-lines were based; effectively.

The two big stars were of the apex predators Carcharodontosaurus and the more colourfully decorated Spinosaurus (loved the flashy red patches on the snout and skull).  The thrust of the programme dealt with how these predators would have interacted.  A nice touch was the Spinosaurus catching the Pterosaur and we enjoyed the sequence with the Spinosaur fishing, behaving something like a fifteen metre-plus Grizzly.

A quick mention for the musical score (Ilan Eshkeri) which we did not find as intrusive as we feared.  However, one comment – “talk about red in tooth and claw”.  The action was somewhat visceral and whilst we accept the need for authenticity in such programmes we wondered whether all the predation and fighting would frighten younger viewers.

The Spinosaurus featured, was an elongate form, not the robust bruiser from the Jurassic Park trilogy.  We thought this interpretation favoured those Spinosaurus replicas that were made by Safari Ltd and Collecta with their recent introductions of Spinosaurus replicas into their model ranges.

To view the models available from Everything Dinosaur including Spinosaurus: Dinosaur Toys

The ferocious carnivore Sarcosuchus was an interesting addition, showing the diversity of Crocodyliforms in the Cretaceous fossil record.  This particular prehistoric predator has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest crocodile of all time.

Can’t wait for episode two – off to China to view the arboreal antics of feathered dinosaurs and their cursorial cousins – Theropods behaving like Aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) anyone?

11 09, 2011

Walking with Dinosaurs in 3D to have the “Avatar Touch”

By | September 11th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

James Cameron to help on BBC 3D Dinosaur Project

Award winning film director James Cameron is to lend his expertise to the BBC in a project to bring the “Walking with Dinosaurs” franchise up to date with a 3D version of the six part series.  Oscar winner Cameron, whose portfolio of work includes Titanic and Avatar, will be bringing the Cameron/Pace Group’s film expertise working alongside BBC Earth Films, Reliance Pictures and Evergreen Films to produce what is promised to be a spectacular dinosaur series, one of the most expensive projects the BBC has ever been involved in.

Neil Nightingale, Creative Director for BBC Earth Films commented:

“Cameron/Pace Group shares our vision of setting a new benchmark for immersive 3D film with Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.  It’s exciting to be joining forces with them to bring audiences a truly extraordinary experience.  We’ll be using the highest technical and creative standards in 3D photography to immerse our audience in the film, they will truly feel right in amongst the action, part of the astonishing prehistoric world of the dinosaurs.”

James Cameron, perhaps more familiar with working with Hollywood A-listers than Jurassic herbivores added:

“Walking with Dinosaurs 3D offers a fantastic opportunity to push our advances in 3D even further.  We’re inspired by the creative ambition behind the film and the opportunity to work on a feature that aims to bring audiences a real, visceral experience.”

The BBC press release whets reader’s appetites by stating that the production combines world-class factual content with captivating storytelling that will take audiences on an unprecedented journey.   The story told is one of the greatest ever to have unfolded on Earth: a story of families born and families torn apart, of growing up, of rivalry and competition and the relentless struggle to survive.  Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is all the more jaw-dropping for being grounded in fact, it will be the closest audiences can get to exploring our world 70 million years ago.

Dinosaurs in 3D in 2013 (Release Date in Two Years Time)

Picture Credit: BBC Press Release

Team members at Everything Dinosaur are excited by the news, although they had been aware of the BBC’s ambition to make a 3D project involving dinosaurs as a flagship event to showcase the technology.  The benchmark will have to be high, especially after the initial reaction to the CGI used in the forthcoming BBC documentary series “Planet Dinosaur” was lukewarm in some quarters.

The production will immerse audiences in the prehistoric age using photo-real backdrops and combining these with true-to-life animation from the Academy Award-winning animation house Animal Logic (“Happy Feet”) working with leading animation producer Jinko Gotoh (“9”, “Finding Nemo”).  The widely anticipated film is fully financed by Reliance Entertainment with worldwide rights being handled by its subsidiary IM Global.  Twentieth Century Fox holds US rights and has scheduled the film for a late 2013 release.

We will have to wait and see..

Everything Dinosaur would like to thank the BBC Press Service for their help with this article.

23 04, 2011

Review of March of the Dinosaurs

By | April 23rd, 2011|Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Jurassic Parka! – A Review of March of the Dinosaurs

Yes, we know that this two hour animation was set in the Late Cretaceous but we could not help ourselves going for the “Jurassic Parka” pun.  Narrated by Stephen Fry and directed by Matthew Thompson, this CGI documentary tells the story of Scar, a young Edmontosaurus (duck-billed dinosaur) and his herd’s migration away from the high north of the Americas down the western shores of the huge inland sea that effectively cut North America in two for much of the Cretaceous.

Herds of herbivores would gorge themselves on the abundant vegetation in northern latitudes which would have had almost perpetual sunlight to permit plants to grow through the summer months.  However, as the year passed, so the sun would dip lower and lower each day until it would no longer emerge above the horizon and the long night of winter would prevail.  The summer migrants would be heading south to avoid the worst of the winter, whilst the resident dinosaurs such as a troodontid known as Patch would stay put.

The trek made by Scar and his herd, plus the perils of winter survival for Patch, form the basis of this CGI documentary which runs for 87 minutes in total.  The storyline is loosely based on our knowledge of the Dinosauria and other creatures from fossil remains found at locations that would have been near the High Arctic during the Cretaceous.  The behaviour of the dinosaurs and many of the dramatic twists and turns in the plot are based on conjecture and assumptions.  For example, there is no proof that Gorgosaurus (a tyrannosaurid) was a specialist nocturnal hunter.

The story starts at the end of the summer and the first signs of a change in season for the herd of duck-billed dinosaurs. Soon the darkening skies begin to limit the amount of available plant food and the great herds of plant-eaters are forced to head south to avoid the worst of the winter and to find enough food to feed their massive bulk.  Along the way, Scar and the other dinosaurs face predation, natural disasters and death from starvation.  It was interesting to see the Azhdarchidae Pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus depicted as scavengers circling high above the sparse plains waiting to feed on the dying and the dead.  Although fossils of some Azhdarchidae Pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus are associated with inland areas and not marine environments, whether or not these huge flying reptiles really filled the same ecological niche as vultures do today is a moot point.

For Patch and the rest of the residents of the Arctic forest they have to survive as best they can in the perpetual darkness.  The armoured dinosaur referred to as an Ankylosaur which shared the frozen forest with the troodontids, had no tail club.  This fact would not have gone unnoticed by young dinosaur fans watching.  The animal depicted was actually a member of the Nodosauridae, a family of the Ankylosauria that lacked a bony club on the end of their tails.  Whether or not such an animal once flipped on its back could right itself again is open to speculation once more.

All in all, a diverting and entertaining tale, loosely based on scientific knowledge.  Certainly, lots of dinosaurs migrated and lived in herds, these herds in turn, would have been pursued by predators such as packs of Albertosaurs (fossils of these Tyrannosaurs have been found in close proximity to each other suggesting a pack behaviour).  The CGI although impressive in parts reminded us of the sort of computer graphics seen in computer games, the landscape and details of the undergrowth could have been much better.

As for the Mosasaurs lurking in rivers and frozen lakes, as far as we know there is not a lot of fossil evidence to support this and troodontids laying eggs on compacted snow in the depths of winter, we thought this most unlikely.  Our team members suspect that most if not all animals would lay eggs during the period when the sunlight had returned and the temperature had begun to rise.  After all, most modern birds do this (excluding some species of penguin). So a little bit of a mixed bag or keeping our Dinosaurian/Avian thinking caps on should we refer to this documentary as a bit like the curate’s egg.

18 04, 2011

March of the Dinosaurs on ITV 1

By | April 18th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Great Dinosaur Animation Coming to UK Terrestrial Television

March of the Dinosaurs, a two hour long documentary that tells the story of how some Cretaceous dinosaurs migrated hundreds of miles to exploit the rich feeding grounds of the far north, whilst other dinosaurs made the north and its freezing, dark winters their permanent home, is making its premiere on terrestrial television on Easter Saturday.

The programme will be shown at 5pm on Saturday, April 23rd, clashing with the new series of Doctor Who (a deliberate ploy we think). The programmes is based on real scientific evidence that some types of dinosaurs migrated vast distances to exploit food reserves whilst others made the far north of America their permanent residence.

The story of the migration (an Edmontosaurus herd) is narrated by Stephen Fry.  It is a feature length animation that shows how dinosaurs lived more than seventy million years ago in the Arctic Circle.  To read about the research work that the programme is based upon: Dinosaurs of the Arctic

Although the Arctic was warmer than it is today, much warmer in fact (during the Cretaceous there was no permanent ice at either the North or South poles), as winter sets in the high latitude means that the days become very short and in the middle of winter the land is in total darkness.  Plants die back, temperatures fall dramatically and the dinosaurs face a choice stay put or migrate south.

The programme follows the story of two young dinosaurs – Scar, a young vegetarian Edmontosaurus who hatched in the spring, and Patch, a young male feathered, raptor-like Troodon.  As a carnivore, Patch has fed all summer on baby Edmontosaurus.  Unfortunately for him his favourite food is shortly going to be heading south.

Troodon like Patch are equipped to cope through the winter and the film follows his stay in the harsh North. It will be survival of the fittest as they fight for the remaining food in the permanent darkness.  Everyone and everything is fair game.  Such scenarios are scene with extant animals today, such as the Arctic Fox which enjoys a time of plenty when the migrating birds arrive and nest, but the foxes face leaner times when the birds leave.

For Scar, his summer playground becomes a winter killing field as enemies patrol the darkness. The Gorgosaurus, a nine metre long relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, is the apex predator and the programme speculates on whether this Theropod was a nocturnal hunter.  A new research paper has just been published that examined the orbits of dinosaur skulls for clues as to whether some meat-eating dinosaurs were nocturnal or diurnal, Dromaeosaurs such as the Troodontids may have been nocturnal hunters according to this new study.

The herd of Edmontosaurs must march south to avoid the worst of the winter weather, with little to eat their only option is to migrate in search of food.

An Illustration of an Edmontosaurus (Duck-billed dinosaur)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

After one week the migrating herds have reached the edge of the Arctic forest but the open landscape is a hostile new world and Scar faces the new challenge of being exposed to snow.

After the Edmontosaurus have been moving south for almost a month, starvation and exhaustion are taking their toll. To Scar the herd has always meant safety, but the weaker ones begin to collapse and die around him, ending their lives as meat on the open plains.

Sounds like a fascinating documentary, one that is being shown on Easter Saturday at 5pm in the United Kingdom (London may be an hour later), but probably repeated over the next few days, a great treat for the Easter holidays.

28 02, 2011

BBC Annouces Plans for their Dinosaur Season

By | February 28th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

The Dinosaurs are Back on the BBC – this time in 3-D

The BBC have announced details of their new ground breaking television programmes combining prehistoric animals, the latest research and new media technology.  This marks the first time that the BBC has developed a palaeontology themed television series since the world famous “Walking with Dinosaurs” aired more than a decade ago.

The new documentary series, filmed in 3-D is to be entitled “Planet Dinosaur” and focuses on the research that has been carried out since the “Walking with” series.  Dinosaurs featured will include Spinosaurus and the fierce, cannabalistic Majungasaurus (also known as Majungatholus).

To see a replica of Majungatholus and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

The television programmes will also include giant marine reptiles such as the infamous Pliosaur “predator X”, perhaps the largest carnivore ever to live on planet Earth.  The three-part series will combine 3D graphics, computer imagery and photo-realistic fight scenes to give a fresh perspective on dinosaurs.  At Everything Dinosaur, we have been contacted to help with the graphics, advising on a number of projects associated with the programmes.

To accompany the programmes BBC 4 will show three documentaries – a sort of “making the sequels to Walking..”, they will be called How to build a dinosaur, Survivors and Dinosaurs, Myths and Monsters.

26 01, 2011

The Birth of Britain TV Documentary – Review

By | January 26th, 2011|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

The Birth of Britain Television Programme Review

There have been several excellent television documentaries on the subject of geology and geography aired recently.  For example, the very well put together “Men of Rock” shown by the BBC on Thursday evenings.  This three-part television programme, highlighting the contribution to geology made by notable scientists such as Louis Agassiz and James Croll.  These programmes are narrated by Professor Iain Stewart, whose bubbly enthusiasm for his subject makes good television.  However, a quick note in praise of Tony Robinson who narrates the Channel Four documentary series “The Birth of Britain”.  In these three programmes Tony Robinson travels the length and breadth of the mainland of Great Britain highlighting the volcanic past of the United Kingdom, the effect of the Ice Ages on shaping the landscape and in the last programme, how gold and other precious metals are mined.

Whilst Tony Robinson cannot boast the academic credentials of a Professor Iain Stewart, he is equally enthusiastic and seems to genuinely enjoy explaining the clues left to our island’s past in its geology and geography.

To his credit, he keeps his enthusiasm even when getting soaked.  He seems to have spent half the filming time in a rain shower. We know how he feels, the trickle of water seeping into the boots, the discovery that your waterproofs are not quite as “waterproof” as they used to be – all good fun.

The United Kingdom has some wonderful landscapes and we have enjoyed watching these programmes even looking on enviously as Tony Robinson speaks into the camera in yet another rainstorm.

“The Birth of Britain” documentaries are being shown on Channel Four at 8pm Mondays, although let down by some poor animation, they are informative and show some of the most spectacular parts of the British Isles as well as revealing what evidence can be found in cities and in railway stations that show what happened in the past.

13 11, 2010

Review of BBC Television’s “First Life” Documentary

By | November 13th, 2010|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, TV Reviews|2 Comments

Praising David Attenborough’s “First Life”

Last night, the BBC showed the second and concluding part of the television documentary “First Life”, which provided information regarding the origins of life on Earth.  Sir David Attenborough may be an octogenarian but his energy and enthusiasm for the natural world is as undiminished as ever and his intelligent commentary combined beautifully with state of the art computer graphics to give viewers an insight into the origins of life on Earth.

The long slow fuse to the Cambrian explosion, as we at Everything Dinosaur like to call the later stages of the Cryptozoic Eon, was handled very well in the first of the programmes entitled “Arrival”, the second and final part, called “Conquest” dealt with the rise of the Arthropods and the rapid diversification of animals which ultimately led to the evolution of the first land animals.

In fairness to the production company, cramming 3.3 billion years of the history of life on Earth into just two, one-hour documentaries is an achievement in itself.  Such a programme would have been very difficult to make twenty years ago as our understanding of the evolution of early life forms has increased immensely over the last few years.  The major fossil sites that help to document the origins of life were visited and Sir David, tackled the steep slopes of the Burgess shales (British Columbia) and the sweltering heat of the Ediacaran hills with gusto.  We were expecting to hear a little more about the Gunflint sedimentary rocks of western Ontario (Canada) and their micro-organism fossils, but the oldest fossils visible to the naked eye – Stromatolites were discussed and Sir David did visit colonies in Australia, giving the viewer an impression of what some parts of the world would have looked like way back in time.

Great to see Charnia and Charnwood forest in the documentary, a part of England that Sir David knows well as he used to indulge in his hobby of fossil collecting in the exposed sedimentary rocks in the area.  One thing that did make a lasting impression on us, was the use of computer graphics to bring Charnia back from the dead as it were.  The lack of pigmentation was something that had not occurred to us.  This is obvious now that we think about it, organisms living at the bottom of the sea in complete darkness would not need pigmentation.

The diversification of the Trilobites was well handled, although it would have been nice to have seen a number of genera animated so that viewers could get a real impression of the multitude of forms that arose.  Indeed, in the second episode – “Conquest” the Arthropods dominated, there was not much coverage of the Molluscs, Brachiopods or the Echinodermata.

The locations were stunning and the camera crew certainly racked up the air-miles with a number of exotic sites featured, but lovely to see the important Scottish fossils that have helped document the rise of the Arthropods and the evolution of land animals.

Organisms that most readily capture our attention tend to be easily visible, intelligent with complex behaviour – mammals like us, for example.  Yet, as far as the history of recorded life on Earth is concerned – the fossil record, it is the invertebrates that are much more abundant and it is wonderful to see a television series that provides an insight into our current knowledge as to life’s origins.  The fossil remains of Pikaia (pronounced pick-kay-ah), from the Burgess Shale deposits did get a mention.  The discovery of a Cambrian organism with a notochord – the rise of Chordata Phylum had to be covered, after all, if it wasn’t for creatures like Pikaia, we would not be here today.

Personally, I would like to have seen more information on the competition that arose between Arthropoda and Mollusca and perhaps a little more on the evolution of plants, but apart from these minor points – another broadcasting triumph for the BBC.

A number of team members have asked for the book that accompanies the television programmes to be added to their Christmas lists.

Scientist’s knowledge of the Palaeozoic and the origins of life has been increased exponentially over the years.  A study of ancient strata in Sweden has led some researchers to conclude that the impact of extraterrestrial objects led to another spurt in the evolution of life in the Ordovician Period.

To read more about this research: Palaeozoic Meteorite Bombardment gives Life on Earth a Helping Hand

23 10, 2010

Attenborough’s Journey

By | October 23rd, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Famous Figures, Main Page, TV Reviews|4 Comments

David Attenborough’s Journey a Prelude to the new BBC Documentary Series

On Sunday at 8pm (GMT), BBC Two will show the one hour television documentary called “Attenborough’s Journey”, the prelude to the new BBC natural history series “First Life” that tells the story of how the first animals and plants evolved.  “First Life” charts the origins of life on Earth and combines visits to some of the world’s most important fossil locations with ground-breaking CGI footage to bring long extinct animals such as Trilobites and Anomalocaris back to life.

“Attenborough’s Journey” is a documentary about the making of the “First Life” series it follows Sir David Attenborough as he travels the world to film this new set of television programmes.  As Sir David (aged 84), journeys to the parts of the world that have had a special meaning to him in his fifty or so years of broadcasting.  He visits his childhood home in Leicestershire where he first collected fossils, including Ammonites and Trilobites.  He then travels onto Morocco’s arid deserts, again onward to the glaciers of Canada, before visiting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Sir David Attenborough Focusing on a Piece to Camera

Picture Credit: BBC

As an introduction to the “First Life” series of documentary programmes, “Attenborough’s Journey” provides a unique insight into the mind and character of one of the world’s most famous and well-travelled broadcasters.  This documentary combines recent footage shot on various locations with archive footage from Sir David’s five decades of television programme making.

When Sir David was asked about how he keeps going, despite being 84 years young, he commented that, although he has a few aches and pains there was no point worrying about it.

He said in an interview before his 84th birthday:

“My legs don’t work and people say, ‘You should have a knee replacement’, but when you are 83 there would be another year or 18 months of pain and stuff, and by that time you are 85, 86.  Come on!  We are mortal and you cannot make yourself a 26-year-old again.  You might as well cope with it the way it is going.”

We can’t wait for the TV programmes to be aired and I know a couple of my colleagues have already requested the book that accompanies the “First Life” series be added to their Christmas lists.

29 11, 2009

Lyuba Makes Her Terrestrial Television Debut

By | November 29th, 2009|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, TV Reviews|0 Comments

Secrets of a Baby Mammoth

The discovery of a perfectly preserved baby Woolly Mammoth by a nomadic reindeer herder in the north-western part of the huge Siberian tundra, sent shock waves rippling across the scientific world.  Baby Woolly Mammoths had been found before, but they had been weak and sickly animals, Lyuba (as that was the name given to the carcase), was different.  Here was a young Mammoth that had drowned and by all accounts was a strong calf.  Her body was to provide an insight into the fauna and flora of an Ice Age world some 40,000 years ago.

To read an article on Lyuba: New Baby Mammoth Found

The story of the research and the study of this amazing well preserved fossil has been made into a ninety minute documentary.  It has been shown on satellite television channels before, but it is being shown on terrestrial television for the first time this Friday.

To view a model of a baby Woolly Mammoth and dinosaur models: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

This programme is being shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Friday December 4th.  It should be fascinating.

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