In December 2018, virtual reality cameras built to operate in zero gravity were sent aboard a space flight to the International Space Station where astronauts will use them to document their life in orbit 250 miles above the earth.
There are a vast number of things that most of us can hope to experience in this life but living aboard the International Space Station is probably not one of them. Space travel is still reserved for a highly-trained and privileged few and while astronauts returning home from the ISS do their best to share the wonders of space travel in stories and images, we know in our hearts that we’re missing the crucial experience of seeing it for ourselves. But all that is about to change thanks to an upcoming documentary from TIME called The ISS Experience.
Teaming up with Felix & Paul Studios, Emmy award-winning creators of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality experiences, TIME aims to create a unique immersive experience that will culminate in the first-ever filming of a spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality.
“Most of what we will film is going to be captured inside of the space station over a period of about nine months. But as the story builds up, it’s going to gradually ramp up to a spacewalk, where we will take audiences outside the space station, alongside the astronauts, to capture the first ever cinematic VR spacewalk. We’re pretty excited,” said Creative Director Felix Lajeunesse.
Custom cameras for a unique challenge
To capture footage for The ISS Expeience required the creation of a custom-built 360-degree camera just for the project. The setup is comprised of a series of modified 4K cinematic Z CAMs paired with a finely tuned motorised rig. The platform helps keep the camera stable and prevents it from floating around in the microgravity environment.
Having the right camera rig is crucial but so is the camera placement. To create a realistic experience, the filmmakers advised the space station crew that they needed to place the cameras where they were probably going to be the most in the way and thety would actually least like to put them.
“A very vital thing to virtual reality storytelling is where you actually place the camera, and in our practice at the studio, we like to think of the virtual reality camera as if it were a person. We generally want to place that VR camera where a person could actually physically be or stand, and that’s a massive factor in building a sense of immersion for audiences,” said Lajeunesse.
The camera systems arrived at the ISS in December aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. The crew have already shot the first scenes and plan to complete the filming process by late 2019.
To join the adventure make your way to TIME The ISS Experience