Walk with Penguins in 3D 360°

The Challenge

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.

To overcome these threats to the species, nature conservation charity BirdLife International and its Partners have launched the ‘Protect a Penguin’ campaign. Using a wide range of communication channels, the campaign will raise awareness of the plight of penguins to a global audience.

Based on Visualise’s experience working with both not-for-profit organisations and penguins  (the team has previously filmed African Penguins at Boulders Beach in South Africa). BirdLife approached Visualise, to create the campaign’s immersive 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

The Solution

In late November 2016 a small Visualise production team travelled to the remote Falkland Islands for a once in a lifetime opportunity to film in 3D 360°, a sub-antarctic colony of penguins during the breeding season.

Walk with Penguins was delivered as a fully stereoscopic 3D 360 film, with an ambisonic sound mix – to provide unfettered, intimate action with penguins and their offspring.

“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. With stereo, 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. Lets save the penguins!”

Will McMaster, Head of VR at Visualise

Filming proved a major challenge, using untested camera rigs including Google Jump and Visualise’s own stereo nodal slicer, on precipitous cliff faces and remote environments with no infrastructure.

The Visualise crew was required to balance the necessity of getting close enough to the penguins, to ensure compelling 360° shots, without upsetting the birds in their natural habitat.

In post production, Visualise employed a number of new techniques for cleaning stereo footage using NUKE. Since the Google Jump camera produces small visual errors– which noticeably distort areas around moving objects – Visualise developed a workflow to remove almost all of these errors.

Walk with Penguins is one of the world’s first nature films shot using 3D 360° technologies, at 6k of resolution in stereo, that delivers one of the most immersive documentary experiences ever created.

Curious fluffy King Penguin chick.

“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

The hours of footage has been condensed into a five minute 3D 360° film, launched on 19th April on YouTube 360 as part of BirdLife’s global, digital marketing awareness campaign. Walk with Penguins will have it’s world premiere at the Virtual Reality Show London 20-22nd April and will be available to experience in VR headsets at future fundraising events in the summer.

About BirdLife International

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership. With 120 BirdLife
Partners across the globe, it is recognised as the world leader in bird conservation.

Credits:

Production company - Visualise
Director - William D. McMaster
Director of Photography - Jonathan Curran
1st AC / D.I.T - Joe Packman
Sound recordist - Darren Rahaman
Executive producer - Alex McMaster
Producers - Sophia Georgiou
Sound designer - Henrik Oppermann
Editor - William D. McMaster
Nuke Artist - Tom Hawksley
Narrator - Matt Hopper
Score - Renée Abe