If you’ve ever found a documentary boring, this 360/VR experience created by VICE is guaranteed to change your mind. Motherboard ventured out to Brazil with some VR cameras to film an unforgettable project. “Living With Jaguars” is a fascinating documentary on saving
Brazil’s wild cats, and teaching people how to harmoniously co-exist with jaguars, instead of endangering these generally harmless animals. As one rancher puts it in the doc: “The Jaguar never offends, he only defends himself”. Brazil has one of the highest Jaguar populations on earth, but the lives of these breathtaking creatures are being threatened every day. In 2018, they only occupy half of their original historic scope. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for people to proudly display the paws and head of a jaguar as a trophy win. Today, social media is the modern manifestation of that. People regularly post images of their gruesome trophy kills, with total disregard and a lack of respect for the elusive and majestic jungle cat.
The VR experience itself is a little dizzying but adrenaline-pumping, swooping us through aerial views and placing them in the middle of a lake or jungle where we can take a fly-on-the-wall perspective and get to truly observe these cats in their natural habitat. The 360 factor makes the experience even more startlingly realistic.
The documentary chronicles the conservation nonprofit Panthera, which aims to protect its beloved apex predator, and help ranchers people peacefully co-exist with the Pantanal jaguar in an attempt to keep the species thriving in the future and avoid moving their status from near threatened to endangered.
Through cutting-edge technology, VR headset users can approach jaguars up close and even make eye contact with the cats. They can also move between different rooms that each show a different aspect of Pantera, such as intriguing viewpoints of ranchers, ecotourism operators, and conservation researchers.
The fourth wall is totally broken and it doesn’t feel as though we’re watching a cameraman conduct interviews – instead, it’s almost as if we’re sitting down and having a conversation with these knowledgeable experts ourselves.
Controllers allow headset-wearers to grab and hold various items in different environments like the lab and ranch where we can learn about each of the chosen items, such as explanations behind high-tech GPS collars, or how a branding tool is used.
This is a vividly unique way to engage a diverse range of people on animal conservation, ecosystem preservation, and the documentary world. Documentaries often have trouble fully engaging the viewer, and this carefully thought out interactive experience proves that VR may represent the future of not just documentaries, but films in general, bringing a whole new meaning to the word “engagement”.
Users can watch with a Cardboard headset which will be given out at the TIFF exhibit, and the video can be launched with the Youtube app.