Walk Amongst Penguins in Ground-Breaking VR video

By Kathy Boyce April 19, 2017

The world’s largest nature conservation partnership, BirdLife International, has partnered with Visualise, to produce Walk with Penguins, an engaging VR video, shot in 3D for the charity’s new global campaign, Protect a Penguin.

Despite being loved the world over, penguins are the world’s second most threatened group of marine birds, with 10 of the 18 species threatened with extinction due to competition with fisheries, bycatch, marine pollution, disease, habitat disturbance and climate change. Urgent action is needed to better protect them, but public awareness of their situation is low.

Using the highly engaging nature of 360° video BirdLife International’s aim was to create an immersive short film to bring the daily challenges and threats to penguins closer to its audiences as a 3D 360° film.

Still from the film

“BirdLife Partners across the globe are already working to tackle some of the threats to penguins, but the size of the challenge demands that efforts are redoubled. Using 3D 360° film, we can get people closer to penguins and give people that magical feeling of being with them – and ultimately that can lead to a greater support for their conservation.”

Richard Grimmett, Director of Conservation, BirdLife International

Still from the film.

During the five-month project to capture penguins in their native habitat, the Visualise production team travelled to the remote Falkland Islands in November 2016 (during the breeding season) and filmed the incredible scenes using the Google Jump stereoscopic camera system and their own bespoke 3D 360° rig, which provides the viewer with unfettered, intimate action with penguins and their offspring.

Capturing King Penguin chicks with the Google Jump rig for vr video walk with penguins.

“A fluffy King Penguin chick walks up to you and stares you in the eye; you duck your head as an albatross soars overhead; you are almost splashed with water as penguins squabble for a shower; and you share intimate moments with Southern Rockhopper Penguins, threatened with extinction. As the sun sets on the penguin colony within which you stand, you can’t help but feel an emotional connection to the penguins there, especially as you learn of their plight through the voice over.”

Richard Grimmett, Director of Conservation, BirdLife International

Filming proved a major challenge, using untested camera rigs on precipitous cliff faces and in remote environments with no infrastructure. With previous experience in this arena, the Visualise team had to balance the necessity of getting near to the penguins, to ensure great 360° shots, without upsetting the birds in their natural habitat. The result is one of the world’s first nature films shot using 3D 360° technologies. Never before has the action of penguins been captured in such immersive detail.

Jonathan Curran, meets a curious Southern Rockhopper Penguin

“We have loved working with BirdLife and the penguins they are supporting on this project. This film is one of the first nature documentaries created in stereo 360°. While most 360° film is shot monoscopic, and therefore has no depth, stereo 360° means that the viewer can see the physical depth of the scene. This means that audiences will be able to feel even more like they're there, like they could almost reach out and touch the penguins, rocks and the sea. We hope this unique level of immersion will provide an emotional connection with audiences and generate greater support and donations for the campaign. Let’s save the penguins!”

Will McMaster, Head of VR at Visualise

The hours of footage has been condensed into a five minute nature short, and will be live from today, Wednesday 19 April, viewable on YouTube 360.

To be one of the first to experience the film in a VR headset make sure to attend the Virtual Reality Show London between 20th – 22nd April and visit the Visualise Documentary Studio for the world premiere!

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