Experience Yosemite in VR With the First Family for the National Parks Centennial

Nat Geo, Oculus, Felix & Paul Team Up on Anniversary Project

Published On
Aug 25, 2016

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Earlier this summer, some might recall that President Obama had spent his Father's Day touring the country's national parks -- fitting excursions, given that it's the Centennial Year of the National Parks Service. It turns out that at the time, along for the ride were Oculus, Naional Geographic and VR directing pros Felix & Paul, capturing the POTUS and family for a virtual reality experience that debuts today (see tje 360-degree film version on Facebook), in honor of the National Parks Service's 100th anniversary.

The experience allows viewers to explore scenic, sweeping views of Yosemite and observe President Obama and his family at moments during their trip. In one scene, we see the President interacting with children as paparazzi surround them with camera. In another, he raps on the merits of the Parks versus Disneyland with Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher and in a third, we see him quietly taking in the beauty of Vernal Falls with the First Lady and daughters Malia and Sasha.

"As filmmakers, we wanted to use cinematic virtual reality's unique transportive power to bring audiences into a journey with President Obama where they could experience firsthand the vertiginous, lyrical, and timeless beauty of Yosemite," said Felix & Paul Studios Co-Founder Felix Lajeunesse in a statement. "We were deeply inspired by the idea that American national parks such as Yosemite were originally established 'for all people for all times,' as a way to allow future generations to experience the extraordinary and untouched beauty and richness of these natural wonders."

The experience, available in the Oculus store for Gear VR, marks the first time a sitting president has been captured in 360-degrees. Previously, Felix & Paul had captured former president Bill Clinton in East Africa for the Clinton Global Initiative.

Technically speaking, Mr. Lejeunesse told Creativity that the production presented some challenges familiar to the VR process -- and ones that come hand-in-hand with the "talent" involved. "It required from our team a high level of efficiency, creativity and concentration at all times," he said. "This was not a situation where we could ask to 'do that take one more time.' We operated on a tight timeline with two VR filming teams on the ground."

Having worked now with two different presidents, Mr. Lejeunesse also said the production benefited from the leaders' natural talents. "Cinematic virtual reality is a medium that shows humans and environments in their integrality and as they really are," he said. "It's hard to lie through cinematic virtual reality -- we often think of it as a transparent medium. President Clinton and President Obama are both genuine and charismatic human beings who behave very transparently and naturally when exposed to cameras. Therefore they both come out great through cinematic virtual reality."