Before the silence comes the noise. We drove for three hours in a minivan through early spring, which here, pretty much in the geographical center of Sweden, means: the grayish snow mountains on the side of the road are only as high as a man, and the sun, which is getting bolder every day, is increasingly turning the remnants of winter into one Lake landscape.

At the edge of a frozen river and an airy forest of pine trees, between spruce trees, a few lonely willows and lots of birch trees, the route soon becomes too impassable. Rubber boots are needed, and we switch to a tracked vehicle, a mix of quad bike and snowmobile, that rattles through the wilderness.

A team from Swedish television is already working on a few cameras and microphones at the scene. Afterwards, a kettle grill is screwed together to roast beef and chicken for lunch. There is no elk meat. Too expensive.

We have arrived on the set of “Den stora älgvantreiben”, the great moose migration. A television event that appears uneventful for long stretches and that slows down more than just Swedish viewers. Since 2019, the public broadcaster SVT has been broadcasting a live stream from a remote river island around the clock for more than two weeks. Here, as soon as the thaw begins at the end of April, the world’s largest deer move from their winter quarters along the coast to the mountainous interior. What’s particularly spectacular is that they also go swimming. Bathing, so to speak.

Researchers suspect that the route through water has been in their genes for at least 6,000 years. Meanwhile, the locals like to point out the hollows scattered everywhere in the forest floor, where moose were caught as early as the Stone Age.

After the broadcasting rights for the unusual event were sold to Finland, German television is now also on the move for the first time. RTL and RTL will broadcast and report on Earth Day, a global day of action for environmental and climate protection, from April 22nd. They hope for good ratings. Even if no one can guarantee a spectacle. When the format premiered five years ago, only ice floes drifted through the picture for 30 hours, remember the inventors and creators Johan Erhag and Stefan Edlund. At the time, complaints from the executive floor were countered with humor: “Wait a minute, I’ll call the Elks, maybe they’re still in a conference,” Edlund apologized.

“To be honest, we were surprised that the Germans didn’t get involved much earlier,” says Johan Erhag. Why? Well, they’ve been buying summer houses here for a long time and like to steal the red and yellow warning signs with the moose shadow, says Erhag.

“Switch on to switch off” is now one of the slogans RTL uses to promote animal migration. In one of the first conferences, an enthusiastic graphic designer quickly redesigned the logo: RTL became RTElch. So that there isn’t too much calm at the end, an accompanying program was designed to bring out the even-toed ungulates like in a talent show.

Funny videos are planned of moose chasing skiers, showing up at the hospital, stealing popcorn from the cinema or ringing the doorbell. Viewers and celebrity sponsors should also choose their personal favorite. A media psychologist and a neurologist are investigating what the transmission does to the viewers’ brain waves. In Sweden, the show is often shown while cooking or when friends are visiting, in schools, daycare centers and at the dentist. In the Swedish original there is also a live chat where fans can exchange ideas.

The phenomenon is called “Slow TV” and has been slowly but steadily sweeping through the television landscape for decades. The rediscovery of slowness actually began as a culinary project. After an Italian activist protested against the opening of a McDonald’s branch near the Spanish Steps in Rome, the international “Slow Food” movement developed from the mid-1980s. This gave rise to a whole subculture that was not concerned with completing everything at a snail’s pace, but rather learning to appreciate minutes and hours better. From now on, the motto was that we should do things as well as possible and not as quickly as possible – in every area of ​​life: from work to consumption and traveling to eating and raising children. Today this is called mindfulness.

Andy Warhol is considered a pioneer of cinematographic stretching and stretching. In the 1960s, he first filmed his friend sleeping for hours, then he used his camera to capture the lights in the Empire State Building being turned on and off over the course of a day.

In the mid-80s there was a New York cable channel that broadcast nothing but a fireplace. When the broadcast time on German television, driven by private broadcasters, was extended to 24 hours, broadcasting islands of contemplation emerged here too: the hustle and bustle in an aquarium, the “Space Night” by Bavarian Radio and “The Most Beautiful Railway Routes in Germany”. Not to forget a highlight on the Kabel eins channel: “The Long Night of Heavy Transport”.

The Norwegians dared even more and went live in prime time. People quietly knitting a sweater during prime time. People stacking and lighting wood for a large bonfire. The longest transmission was particularly successful: the documentation of a ship’s voyage with eleven cameras over almost 135 hours. More than three million tuned in, and at the end even Queen Sonja stopped by.

In a time of everyday hustle and bustle, push notifications and the constant buzz of social media, calm and serenity are well received. “Our show is like a living oil painting,” says Erhag. “Like a window to the outside. We bring nature into people’s living rooms.” No background music, no commentators, just original sound.

Of course the Swedes show an ideal world. In reality, the population of the national animal is constantly decreasing; the locals simply enjoy hunting too much. Next to the area in which the film is being filmed, there is also a road that is very busy with heavy traffic and that the moose prefer to use as a hiking route. Accidents involving wildlife occur regularly. “This happens outside of our camera perspectives,” says Erhag. “Otherwise it would be a slightly different kind of television.”

Erhag, 43, a small man with quick eyes, who laughs a lot and wears bright yellow rubber boots, is originally from Stockholm and has a background in sports journalism. He has covered football, ice hockey and sailing all over the world, including world championships.

Edlund, 44, is a trained photographer, has already worked for a medical program and shot shorter nature documentaries in Africa and the tropical rainforest. He wants to sleep as little as possible during the moose migration – because as technical director he is responsible for the infrastructure. And because as an art director he knows the recipe for success of his format: “Like our audience, I want to be there when something happens,” he says. “You know, if I go to the bathroom now, I might miss something.” In the meantime, you can indulge in the sound of birds chirping, the singing of the forest, the crunching of ice and snow.

Anyone who only looks at the highlights of the daily summary has not understood the principle, adds Erhag. “That’s exactly the appeal,” he says. “You never know where the moose are. Or if they will even show up.” The plan to use an infrared camera was therefore quickly abandoned. Just like the idea of ​​giving some animals nicknames. “It felt too Disney-ish, so now we’re just giving out four-digit numbers,” says Erhag.

Erhag and Edlund’s first project together was to observe an island for Norwegian television where thousands of birds meet to mate, lay eggs and breed. The recordings were spectacular, but not without problems. “The noise level was completely crazy,” they both remember. You needed an umbrella to deal with the masses of bird droppings. It only broadcast during the day.

The technology has been enormously upgraded for the moose migration. The Swedes take the task as seriously as if they were broadcasting the Olympic Games. A drone and a total of 35 cameras are used, including five with night vision. Protected and hidden under a black plastic bucket and a camouflage net, both available at your local hardware store.

Electricity and internet connection are obtained from a currently uninhabited holiday home on the opposite bank of the river. The signals finally converge in SVT’s local studio, located in the industrial area of ​​the city of Umeå, around 200 kilometers away.

In the “control room”, where Erhag waits for there to be more movement in the pictures than just the waves and the needles in the wind, the Swedes work in shifts; the stream only runs automatically between 11 p.m. and five o’clock. The team consists of 20 people in total, all men.

Especially at night, other animals also push their way into the sparse light and into the foreground. There have already been appearances by bears and a wolverine, as well as mice, rats and beavers, who unfortunately like to nibble on one of the 17 kilometers long cable strands.

During the star’s stay, not a single live moose was seen. Only a stuffed specimen was on display: right on the first floor of Umeå’s local history museum, it looks friendly in the face. You can scratch it and pull on its typical wattles, probably a kind of organic air conditioning that cools the moose’s bloodstream in summer.

At least: We discovered the tracks of the moose, so big and deep, as if a strong man had trudged through the snow. We saw their excrement on the bank: dark brown feces, the shape of which reminds us of egg briquettes.

And reindeer were on the move, herds of reindeer. Tourists often confuse the much smaller deer, a type of moose, with its relative. Another difference: reindeer like company. They camp next to and on the main road. At this time of year they couldn’t find enough food, explains Erhag, so they licked the road salt from the asphalt. Noise doesn’t bother them.

Transparency note: The star is part of RTL Deutschland.