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VR Vantages and Views: Production Scales Summit of Mount Everest

Because it is one of the most difficult treks on the planet, few are willing to climb to Mount Everest’s summit. Fortunately, thanks to new technologies and an innovative production company, you won’t have to risk your life to experience the adventure.

Amsterdam-based production company VR Explorers didn’t just set out to reach the top—their goal was to capture virtual reality footage from the mountain’s peak at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level. Led by filmmaker and postproduction artist Przemek Siemion, the VR Explorers’ team joined 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.

Editing the Climb Everest VR presentation

“Filming in virtual reality is a totally different ballgame than with normal cameras,” Siemion explains. “Once the recording starts, we as crew need to disappear so we are not in the shot. But hiding on a mountain isn’t easy. Behind the camera doesn’t work anymore.”

Their equipment had to be especially robust to perform at that elevation. Because previous expeditions with larger cameras had been unsuccessful, VR Explorers put together an innovative and lightweight kit. The crew relied on GoPro cameras, monopods, assorted sound equipment, Litepanels LED lights, laptop computers and data cards—plus Anton/Bauer Cine 90 batteries and the Performance Quad charger.

In addition to being able to power the kit to the summit, the CINE batteries were flexible enough to power the crew’s other equipment. Siemion 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.

A view of the route to the top from a modified GoPro camera with 250° lens.

“Working with VR is daring to take risks. One thing is sure: it is not easy,” says Siemion. “Standard occupations are cleaning all the camera lenses due to specks and snow—and for VR, we have quite a lot of lenses! Many hours are filled with making backups of footage on at least three different drives to make sure we don’t lose precious material.

“By pushing the boundaries, our team has to improvise and find solutions to all the challenges that occur, from intense reflection of sunlight on snow, and handling equipment in thick gloves to prevent frostbite, to the immense challenge of altitude adaptation and shooting 360° views while in constant movement, following a guide whose job is to get everyone moving safely and systematically to the summit.”

VR Explorers’ VR filming phase culminated with a successful summit push on May 20 of this year. The company’s VR film is planned for release in early 2017.