Jaunt and BirdLife Walk with the Penguins

Get up close and personal with a 360 view of penguins in their natural habitat.

Penguins are one of the world’s most fascinating creatures. There is so much love for them across the globe, but getting an up close and personal look at our fine feathered friends in the wild can be hard. Well, your dreams were answered when BirdLife International brought us Walk with Penguins, now live on the Jaunt app. In this film, viewers are transported to a sub-arctic penguin colony and fully immersed into the lives of one of the world’s most endangered marine birds. We spoke with the team on the film to go deep in on the project and what we can do to help save the lives of penguins.

We have always had great success with nature films and VR. How do you hope people connect with this experience?

Maggie Balaskas (Penguin Campaign Coordinator, BirdLife International): The BirdLife Partnership is already working across the globe to tackle some of the threats to penguins, but the size of the challenge demands that efforts are redoubled. With VR we can transport people to a penguin colony and give them the novel opportunity to be amongst these incredible birds in their natural environment — and ultimately encourage greater support for their conservation.

Why penguins and why is this experience important to show people now?

Maggie Balaskas: Penguins are the second most threated group of seabirds after albatrosses — over half the world’s penguins are threatened by extinction. The BirdLife Partnership has had great success in saving albatrosses, and we are now doing the same for penguins. This is why, earlier this year, BirdLife launched the ‘Protect a Penguin’ campaign, to help raise public awareness of the plight of penguins and funds to support our vital conservation work to protect them. We hope giving people the opportunity to ‘Walk with Penguins’ will increase public awareness and encourage more support to conserve these remarkable birds.


What kind of access were you able to get with your “talent” that you wouldn’t have been able to have before 360?

Maggie Balaskas: Visualise, the VR Production Studio we worked with to create the film, were able to capture some incredible footage of the penguins, which makes you feel like you are really there amongst the birds. The Visualise crew was required to balance the necessity of getting close enough to the penguins, to ensure compelling shots, without disturbing or upsetting the birds in their natural habitat. Much of the footage was obtained by setting the camera rig up and leaving it — waiting and hoping that the penguins would make an appearance.

Will McMaster, Head of VR at Visualise: This film is one of the first nature documentaries created in stereo 360. With stereo, audiences will be able to feel even more like they’re there, like they could almost reach out and touch the penguins, rocks and the sea. We hope this unique level of immersion will provide an emotional connection with audiences and generate greater support and donations for the campaign. Let’s save the penguins!

How is filmmaking in VR more emotional than shooting in 2D?

Richard Grimmett, Director of Conservation, BirdLife International: There are so many incredible moments in this film. A fluffy King Penguin chick walks up to you and stares you in the eye; you duck your head as an albatross soars overhead; you are almost splashed with water as penguins squabble for a shower; and you share intimate moments with Southern Rockhopper Penguins, threatened with extinction. As the sun sets on the penguin colony within which you stand, you can’t help but feel an emotional connection to the penguins there, especially as you learn of their plight through the voice over.

Maggie Balaskas: Seeing truly is believing and we knew making this film in 360 would give people an emotional experience that would tie them to this lovable cast of characters. When you view the film through a VR headset you’re there amongst penguins, with albatrosses and other seabirds soaring overhead. The sounds of the waves, wind and birds are all around you and there is something to see wherever you look.

For more information visit https://penguin.birdlife.org/us/.