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Virtual reality film to connect audiences with penguin protection

For the first time, digital audiences can be transported to a sub-antarctic penguin colony to immerse themselves in the lives of penguin species, thanks to a new 3D 360-degree film launched on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 produced with Visualise for BirdLife International’s “Protect a Penguin” global campaign.


BirdLife International, believed to be the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, has worked with London-based virtual reality producer, Visualise, to create Walk with Penguins, an engaging 3D 360 short nature film used to connect audiences with penguin protection – the first of its kind.

Penguins are a group of aquatic, flightless birds. They live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere, with only one species, the Galapagos penguin, found north of the equator.

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.

BirdLife International wanted to bring the daily challenges and threats to penguins closer to its audiences, and created a high-quality 3D 360 film as part of its digital campaign “Protect a Penguin”.

Richard Grimmett, Director of Conservation, BirdLife International, said: “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.”

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 incredible scenes using the Google Jump stereoscopic camera system in 3D 360, which provides unfettered, intimate action with penguins and their offspring.

“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,” added Dr. Grimmett.

Filming proved a major challenge, using untested camera rigs on precipitous cliff faces and in remote environments with no infrastructure. With experience in this arena, 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 net 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.

Will McMaster, Head of VR at Visualise said, “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!”

The film has been condensed into a five minutes, and will be live from Wednesday 19 April. For maximum audience reach, the film will be viewable on Facebook and YouTube 360 – as well as through Virtual Reality headsets at BirdLife fundraising events.

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