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5 Tips for Filming a VR Nature Documentary in the African Savannah

My Featured blog for Insta360 on filming 360 in the unforgiving sets of the African Bush

Have you ever dreamed of looking a lion, elephant or rhino in the eye? 

It’s often impossible to encounter these animals up close in the wild without endangering your or the animal’s life. But now, VR nature documentaries are bringing awe-inspiring animals within the reach of anyone with a VR headset. Viewers can now see these animals up close in their natural habitat without ever leaving their living room. 

So, what are the secrets to filming a successful VR nature documentary? To start, you’ll need a durable camera that can withstand extreme temperatures and even an animal bite or two.

We interviewed Telmo dos Reis, founder of VR Capture, a virtual reality studio in South Africa, to get his tips on filming VR content in the African savannah. Their latest VR nature documentary series “Close Encounters” allows viewers to stand eye-to-eye with African wildlife and was filmed entirely on Insta360 cameras. 

Could you briefly introduce VR Capture and your latest VR nature documentary?

My name is Telmo dos Reis, I create cinematic virtual reality content and specialize in 360º video production. Over the last five years, I have worked on numerous VR projects, from content for various commercial clients to original wildlife documentaries. I am a conservationist by heart and love to mix my technical production skills with projects to help promote the conservation of nature and wildlife. 

VR nature documentary photographer

Close Encounters is a 360º cinematic VR nature documentary series featuring three episodes: Elephants, Lions and Rhinos. This project was created in collaboration with VeeR and is available to view on their platform with a VR headset. The aim of this project is to create a sense of connection between the audience and wildlife, bringing greater awareness to the plight of these endangered animals.

At VR Capture, we capture reality at the highest resolutions to use in XR projects. Our team has pioneered cinematic 360º video production throughout Africa and our mission is to produce deeply immersive experiences for a global audience. We utilize the latest in cinematic 360º and volumetric video technologies to capture and deliver highly engaging virtual reality experiences. 

These following tips for filming VR nature documentaries in the wild only apply to filming African savannah animals. All species are different and will need their own approach to filming them up close.

1. Safety first

If you misread the situation and animals, you could be putting yourself and the crew at risk. The animal can react in a defensive and potentially dangerous way. Be respectful of their space and extremely careful when filming. 

Have a trained wildlife specialist on your team to observe the animals behavior and temperament. Be prepared for any medical emergency that could happen if things go very wrong. 

We are fortunate enough to have never had a bad incident with an animal, but there have been a few close calls. It is extremely intimidating, and at times scary, to have an animal stare you down or charge you from close proximity. 

2. Be patient

Nature and animals aren’t paid talent. They won’t just perform on cue for your film. Be patient and wait for the perfect moment to move in and place your camera.

VR nature documentary rhino

Read the entire story on Insa360’s Blog