Experience Everest VR
Experience life at the top of the world as scientists spearhead an effort to map climate change in the upper Himalayas. Throughout the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Expedition to Mount Everest in 2019, Martin Edström and his team from IVAR Studios captured the scientific mission of the landmark venture in two 360-videos for National Geographic’s VR channels.
The Everest VR videos feature breathtaking shots from the Khumbu valley, from the research base at Everest Basecamp as well as from up on Mount Everest itself. The Perpetual Planet expediton has already won three Guinness World Records, and the Everest VR videos tell the story about some of them: including the team’s effort to install the world’s highest altitude weather station.
Episode 1 – The Mission
Immerse yourself with a team of scientists, climbers, and Sherpa guides as they embark on an expedition that will help define our understanding of high-mountain environments. Experience the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition, which was not simply a climb of the mountain, but a perilous adventure to learn how climate change is impacting the highest place on Earth.
The episode “The Mission” features Pete Athans, one of the world’s foremost high-altitude mountaineers. Serving as the chief climber and safety manager of the expedition, his voice lends both authenticity and perspective to the episode, bringing his experience of climbing in the Nepalese Himalayas in the last several decades.
The stories have been widely used in VR theaters and in classrooms as well as online, and premiered at a select few venues in 2020 including the X-games in Aspen as part of the National Geographic Live! lineup.
Episode 2 – The Science
Embark on this virtual reality experience with an international coalition of biologists, geologists, glaciologists, meteorologists, and geographers as they study the effects of climate change in one of the most extreme environments on Earth. The National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition begins at 17,300 feet at Base Camp and ends above 27,000 feet, near the summit of Mt. Everest. Join the team as they collect ice cores, place the world’s highest weather station, and gather hundreds of samples along the way.
Behind the scenes
Martin Edström and IVAR Studios joined the large team put together by the National Geographic Society to lead VR storytelling in Nepal and on the mountain. Our team worked alongside the scientists and climbers to document the journey of the expedition as well as inside perspective on the efforts to collect data relating to climate change in the upper Himalayas.
Thanks to a great collaboration with parts of the summit team, including filmmakers Mark Fisher and Dirk Collins from Fisher Creative, the team was able to bring back a few glimpses of how the National Geographic Science team installed a weather station on the Balcony section of Mount Everest itself.
Awards and recognition
In 2021, the Everest VR series was awarded 1st place for Innovation in the National Press Photographer’s Association annual competition Best of Photojournalism.
In 2021, the Everest VR series was nominated for a People’s choice Webby Award for best 360-video. Results pending.
Visualisations of 3D data in 360-video
Perhaps most notable from an innovation perspective, the second episode features a unique merge of 360-video and 3D-model to guide the viewer through the landscape and help realize the narrative of the expedition. Based on the photogrammetry and textured 3D-models that the mapping team of the expedition created, we visualized both a point cloud (symbolizing the process of gathering 3D data) as well as a textured 3D-model (symbolizing a finished “digital copy” of Mount Everest) for the viewers to enjoy in VR.
This merge of formats offer a segue into using photogrammetry as an important part of immersive storytelling spaces – making it possible for us to create a simulated flight through an area we could not possibly have filmed in 360-degree video because of physical challenges (e.g. drone restrictions and altitude).
This segment of the video had not been possible to do without the great help from the mapping team from National Geographic Society, including Alex Tait, Corey Jaskolski, Chris Millbern, Kenny Broad and Sam Guilford.
The Everest VR team
Martin Edström, Director
Emil Wesolowski, Camera
Fredrik Edström, Producer
Katja Adolphson, Assistant camera
Oliver Akermo, Assistant camera
Manne Nyman, Assistant camera
Martin Edström, Director
Oliver Akermo, Editor, IVAR Studios
Fredrik Edström, Producer, IVAR Studios
Julian Schenini, 3D-artist, IVAR Studios
Mats Blomberg, audio mix, PLOP
For National Geographic Society
Wesley Della Volla
More Everest projects
Also take a look at Martin’s longer project about Everest trash.