Virtual reality (VR) has an unprecedented ability to create experiences that shock, awe and inspire. Described as the ultimate ‘empathy machine’, VR can put you into a Syrian refugee camp, allow you to walk through protected historic sites, or take you on a guided tour of the solar system. Now, it can also put you on top of the Earth’s highest peak.
At 8,848 meters above sea level, the journey to the summit of Mount Everest is the definition of a rarely trodden path. As one of the world’s most difficult treks, those willing to attempt the climb face altitude sickness, extreme winds and the possibility of major avalanches. And the majority of them do not have to carry several kilos of filming equipment while they climb.
In order to create a VR representation of the peak a team from Amsterdam-based production company VR Explorers had to not only get to the top, they also had to shoot high-quality footage there. This called for kit made up of the most lightweight, innovative and effective gear and, importantly, a reliable mobile power source. The Anton/Bauer CINE90 batteries and Performance Quad charger were the perfect choice.
A serious undertaking
Led by Dutch filmmaker and post-production artist Przemek Siemion, the team wanted to capture the gruelling journey to the top as well as the view from the summit. The group was aided by 16 climbers and 30 Sherpas, who guided the group from their base camp at 5,000 meters.
"When you go above 7,000 meters, every breath counts,” Przemek says. “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 team’s bodies wearing down, the gear had to fulfil a number of unique requirements. Firstly, it had to be as light as possible to save energy. Secondly, it had to be durable and rugged enough to operate in one of the harshest filming environments. Above all, it needed to be reliable. Being unsure whether you would get to the top of the world’s highest mountain only to be let down by your gear at a crucial moment is not the right headspace for attempting such a physically and mentally demanding project.
The team used GoPro cameras, monopods, Litepanels LED lights, as well as sound equipment, computers and cards. The Anton/Bauer mobile batteries would need to power all of these without any access to an external power source.
"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,” says Przemek. “That was why we used Anton/Bauer. The Performance Quad Charger worked perfectly, allowing us to charge the batteries using the solar-powered generators at base camp. Not to mention, the CINE90s were so small and lightweight - it was really easy to pack and plan our rig around it and we used them for everything."
“Other batteries just don't perform like that. Anton/Bauer was the only one that worked perfectly.”
Reliably high performance
The project asked a lot from the CINE batteries, but they proved to be robust enough to take on even more work than the team initially expected. As well as powering all of the film kit, Przemek was able to charge all of his other equipment with the Anton/Bauer CINE batteries, including the audio equipment and his iPhone.
The battery’s LCD display was easy to read in the conditions and also provided a simple way to monitor the exact run-time when attached to the camera or the percentage of charge when off-camera. Small things like this can make a huge difference in extreme conditions. “I really appreciated that while we were up on the mountain," recalls Przemek.
But most importantly, power was never an issue for the team. Taking this logistical worry off the table completely meant that all the team had to worry about was conquering one of the biggest achievements 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.”
Anton/Bauer designs its mobile power solutions to provide the best performance in the most demanding of environments. This project provided the best possible test for the CINE90 and Performance Quad Charger, a test they both passed with flying colours.