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‘Greenland Melting’ Uses VR To Shine A Light On Global Warming

Journalism meets VR in this PBS funded film highlighting the gradual melting of Arctic ice.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the environment isn’t doing so well. Ridiculous levels of carbon emissions, a heavy reliance on fossil fuels and a lack of general concern to rising temperatures across the globe have begun showing their effects as we see our Earth respond to these dramatic changes.

The United States even pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement not too long ago. That’s why it’s more important than ever to educate ourselves and future generations on the effects of global warming and what we can do to combat it. However, capturing the attention of a younger generation these days for even half a second is no easy task, which is why the immersive VR film Greenland Melting could be the future of environmental education.

Developed by Frontline, Nova and Emblematic Group in association with X-Rez Studio and Realta, Greenland Melting is a new VR film centered around the gradual disappearance of Greenland’s majestic glacial structures. Using VR, you will travel across nine different icy locations throughout the gorgeous country and learn more about the changes taking place beneath its frigid surface.

Whether you’re flying over low altitudes in a photo-realistic NASA research aircraft or standing waist-deep in the spectacular Arctic Ocean, users will learn more about NASA’s studies in the glacial region by not only listening to the narration of one of the many accredited NASA scientists brought in to guide you through the experience, but actually follow their 3D renditions using bleeding-edge VR technology.

Informative overlays and animations are also littered throughout, adding more details and visualizations to help clarify these dramatic changes in the ice. Glaciers disappear in real-time as a timeline overlay shows you exactly how the ice has retreated over the years, animated arrows display the directions of currents beneath the oceans surface, etc.

Greenland Melting utilizes a wide variety of specialized formats and techniques to deliver this stunning experience from 360° video, high fidelity CG models, multi-layered 3D data visualizations and advanced photogrammetry. I was actually fortunate enough to sit down with the cofounder of Emblematic Group, Jamie Pallot, at AOL’s VR Lab in NYC and try the experience for myself.

The eclectic mixture of video formats and capture techniques blended seamlessly with one another and were nearly indistinguishable during my digital journey. The exception being the 3D models of the NASA scientists which quite obviously employ the use of 8i photogrammetry technology, the most advanced method of imprinting real human beings into VR.

“By merging journalism and virtual reality, we illuminate the challenge of climate change and let the audience witness the beauty and significance of a rapidly changing arctic,” the various directors made in a statement. “This experience takes people to remote locations in Greenland and immerses them with researchers inside a nascent, but crucial scientific investigation in a way that is technologically and artistically impossible with 2D film. Virtual reality disrupts the frame and puts the audience fully embodied on scene, displacing the privilege of the director so that viewers can personally engage with one of the most pressing issues facing society.”

The result is an absolutely captivating journey that is just as educational as it is entertaining, which is not an easy feat by any measure. My number one thought throughout my time in the experience was how incredible a learning tool this could potentially be for students, both young and old alike. This is a sentiment apparently shared by Jamie, who teased upcoming projects with even more ambitious features than the ones present in Greenland Melting. In the future, Jamie and the rest of the team even plan to integrate interactive elements that allow for a more immersive experience while still keeping the user on a linear path.

Greenland Melting was directed by Catherine Upin, Julia Cort, Nonny de la Peña and Raney Aronson-Rath. The VR film made its world debut at the 74th annual Venice Film Festival this past August. No word yet on when you’ll be able to get your hands on the experience yourself, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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