Welsh Wildlife – WILD VR Experience
M7 Virtual worked alongside The Welsh Wildlife Trust back in 2016 to create a series of wildlife VR experience for children. The films were a great success and saw viewers swimming with Dolphins and flying like Kingfishers. The films were used in schools and at tradeshows around the UK to help promote the trust.
M7 were delighted to be contacted once again by the Welsh Wildlife Trust to create another series of experiences for several locations in South Wales: The first – Parc Slip, a 300 acre nature reserve with a variety of different habitat types supporting many different species. As well as this, over 10km of walking and cycling tracks are on offer. Secondly, Bryngarw Country Park – A popular sanctuary for wildlife and people alike. Bryngarw has a wide range of facilities for visitors to enjoy. The third experience was based around the valleys of Bridgend including Ogmore and Blaengarw. The concept of the piece was to create the sense of soaring over the valleys as the birds of prey in those areas do.
WILD Parc Slip
This VR experience featured a wide variety of wildlife which reflected upon the thriving surroundings of the Parc Slip nature reserve. Butterflies, Foxes, Highland Cattle and even Kestrels and Foxes were captured in full 360 video providing a unique look at these species in the wild, all through virtual reality. We also flew several drone flights over the site to capture the scale of the reserve, with the low setting sun providing great colours and ambience to the shots.
One of the more technical shots in the film was the hovering Kestrel. We knew that this shot would be nearly impossible to capture live in 360, but knew that with some clever compositing, we could achieve the results we wanted. The M7 team captured a 360 ‘clean plate’ shot of the surroundings at Parc Slip which would later form the 360 background for the shot. The Kestrel was then filmed at British Birds of Prey Centre. The team of falconers at the centre were instrumental in allowing us to capture the shot and were able to have the Kestrel hover on command – Impressive. We used a traditional video camera to film the bird close up in slow motion to give us a highly detailed close up shot which could then be composited into the background shot captured at Parc Slip.
The ‘Yellow Meadow’ at Parc Slip was an area that could not be missed out of the VR experience, and the M7 team were able to capture the meadow in full bloom. The bright colours make for a striking opening to the film and show the beauty of the reserve.
Bryngarw – VR Experience
The VR experience for Bryngarw Country Park was made alongside that of Parc Slip. Bryngarw offers a more family orientated range of facilities and it was important to show this in the VR video. Though wildlife such as Squirrels, Rabbits and Dragonflies feature, the main focus was a family enjoying the park on a day out. This gave the video more of a structure and gives the viewer a point of interest within the scenes. Areas such as the river, playground and meadows were all captured with the family, who were great to work with and helped bring their energy to the VR experience.
Despite there being a large number of insects around the ponds of Bryngarw, we knew it would be a challenge to capture them live in 360 video. With a small and lightweight GoPro Max 360 camera we were able to set up a camera in the reeds. The camera was left running for several hours in the hopes that we would capture the shot we wanted. After searching through the enormous video files once back at the office, the team discovered they had captured a great close up shot of a dragonfly landing right next to the camera. This was a great addition to the film and made for a really unique shot.
The third VR experience of the series was primarily drone based with the concept of soaring above the valleys of Bridgend as if the viewer were an Eagle, commonly seen in that area. We used the DJI Inspire 2 along with the GoPro Max camera to give us stable, high quality shots. Some of the locations we flew from involved walking for 30-45 minutes with the equipment. It was here that this setup proved beneficial as it would have been difficult to carry a larger drone and camera rig with us to some of these locations. Despite it’s small size, we were still able to capture high quality 5.7K 360 video using the GoPro Max. It’s excellent built in stabilisation allowed us to achieve smooth results adding to the feeling of gliding around the valleys.
The most unique shot in the film is without doubt the POV of a Golden Eagle flying. Similarly to the Parc Slip video, we worked with the British Bird of Prey Centre in Carmarthen. We worked with Alex and his team there to develop a custom harness for their Golden Eagle ‘Midas’ to wear. The harness was designed to be strong enough to carry the weight of the camera whilst being small and light enough to be comfortable for the bird, causing it no harm or discomfort. After several prototypes we had a sturdy rig which could be used to capture the shot. The bird flew with the harness and no camera attached until the falconers felt it was used to the setup, at which point the camera was mounted. In post-production we were able to remove all traces of the harness to make for a more immersive and realistic shot. The result is a unique perspective of this majestic creature and really adds to the VR experience.
To learn more about The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and the WILD VR experiences, click here.