Conservation International and Jaunt partner to let you discover the riches and ruins of the Amazonia.
Trees stand tall on both sides of the riverbank as I zoom down the Amazon by kayak. The forest is lush, teeming with life; fish swim underneath the surface of the muddy river, a sloth lounges in a tree, and the birds flying through the cerulean sky are caught up in song. It’s beautiful–stunning–even, but the beauty soon makes way to an ugly truth further downstream when I arrive at an area recently logged and stripped of life. The consequences of deforestation are devastating not only to the indigenous people, plants, and wildlife, but to everyone and everything on our planet.
That’s the central message of “Under the Canopy,” a VR production brought to life by a collaboration between Conservation International and Jaunt. The VR experience successfully captures the unique heart and spirit of the indigenous people who play a critical role in the protection of the forest. Guided by Kamanja Panashekung, you learn about the way he and his family live in peace with nature. He explains that they get their food, medicine, and water from the forest, but that it’s more than just physical sustenance that the Amazon provides. “It not only sustains our bodies. It sustains our souls.”
The experience allows viewers, many of whom will never get the chance to experience the wonders of Amazonia in real life, to descend down a two hundred foot tree, see ancient ruins, and witness the native flora and fauna up close. Through Panashekung’s storytelling, translated from Panashekung’s native language Trio to English and narrated by actor Lee Pace, the devastating effects on both a local and global scale are revealed. Panashekung has noticed the air getting hotter and the wildlife disappearing. He and his family struggle to find reliable drinking water due to the runoff from illegal mining jobs in the region. Globally, the Earth’s temperature continues to rise as less trees exist to absorb Co2 emissions. The film ends with a plea for viewers to forge a new path.
“Under the Canopy” was shot in Suriname and Yasuni National Park using drones, mounted cameras, and the Jaunt ONE. Originally shown at Sundance, director Patrick Meegan held a reception with the producers about the ways in which VR technology can be a vital tool in the ongoing quest for conservation. “In approaching this project we wanted to not only illustrate the importance of conserving the rainforest in relation to climate change, but to create a thrilling experience for audiences far and wide,” said Meegan. “To do this, we married the experience of veteran nature filmmakers with up-and-coming technologists to develop new techniques and achieve VR shots — such as the vertical moves from canopy to forest floor — that are the first of their kind. We also took the Jaunt ONE camera to new heights — achieving impressive VR encounters with tropical birds, butterflies, sloths and more.”
A visually stunning and educational film, the joint effort of Conservation International and Jaunt, with the help of the MacArthur foundation, puts VR technology to good use in its effort to promote environmental awareness and inspire change.
The 360° short can be experienced on Jaunt’s VR App and at conservation.org/canopy. Viewers are encouraged to help protect the Amazon Rainforest by sharing the video and supporting Conservation International’s Protect an Acre program.
You can also watch the making of this 360° VR project on YouTube here.