As one of the most difficult treks on the planet, not many are willing to climb to Mount Everest’s summit and face altitude sickness, high-speed winds, and the possibility of major avalanches. But now, thanks to new technology and an innovative production company, you might not have to risk your life to experience the journey. For Amsterdam-based production company VR Explorers, they didn’t just set out to reach the top, they also became the film industry’s first-ever production team to capture virtual reality footage from the storied mountain's peak at roughly 8,848 meters above sea level.
Led by Dutch filmmaker and post-production artist Przemek Siemion, the VR Explorers' team joined renowned Irish adventurers and guides Noel and Lynn Hanna on an epic quest to capture cinematic VR in one of the world’s most extreme environments. Siemion’s crew aimed to capture the summit as well as the overall journey for viewers.
“Other VR companies had tried before but they failed. This was our big challenge," explained Siemion. "Luckily, our production company had experience from a previous film on Mount Everest so we knew what the climb would look like and what the conditions would be."
The team started their expedition in Kathmandu, Nepal before flying to neighboring peak Lhotse and driving to their base camp at 5,000 meters. Once there, their group of 16 climbers and 30 Sherpas spent six weeks acclimating to the elevation by traveling up and down the trails from base camp – going a little further each time.
"When you go above 7,000 meters, every breath counts. Your body can’t recover and it really begins to deteriorate. I would notice new scratches on my hands just from wearing gloves."
With the human body wearing down, their equipment had to be especially robust to perform at that kind of extreme elevation. Knowing previous expeditions with larger cameras had failed, VR Explorers put together an innovative and lightweight kit. The crew relied on GoPros, monopods, sound equipment, Litepanels LED lights, computers, and cards – plus Anton/Bauer Cine 90 batteries and the Performance Quad charger.
"Because of the harsh conditions, we had to scale down on the weight of our kit and we knew that mobile power would be a challenge. That was why we used Anton/Bauer. The Performance Quad Charger performed great and we had no problem charging the batteries on the solar-powered generators at base camp. Not to mention, the CINE 90s were smaller and lighter weight - it was really easy to pack and plan our rig around it. It was so convenient and we used them for everything."
In addition to being able to power the kit to the summit, Siemion found that the CINE batteries were robust enough to power their other equipment. He ended up preparing special plates that enabled him to charge all of his gear with Anton/Bauer CINE batteries, including the cameras, audio equipment, and even his iPhone.
"From the get-go, we made sure we could charge everything from the Anton/Bauer batteries including the audio equipment and the GoPros. We also brought the batteries we used on our last trek and they just didn't perform and they couldn’t charge off of the solar-powered generators. The Anton/Bauer CINEs were the only ones that worked and really saved us. Without working batteries, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything."
Along with its reliability, Siemion highlighted how important the battery's easy-to-read LCD was during the trip. With the display, he was able to see the battery's precise run time when attached to the camera and the percent of charge when off-camera.
"I loved the visual display. In those conditions, it’s nice to see exactly how much run time you have and the percentage of charge. I really appreciated that while we were up on the mountain."
Overall, power was never an issue that Siemion and his team had to worry about while conquering the next biggest achievement in the digital video world.
“On our way back, we had to stop recording because the camera’s video card was full despite the fact that we still had 8% of battery power left. We even helped others with charging their equipment. Other batteries just don't perform like that. Anton/Bauer was the only one that worked perfectly.”
The VR film is planned for release in early 2017.