Thanks to a virtual reality video released on Nov. 15 by clothing company Arc’rteryx, people around the world will get to experience Smithers backcountry skiing.
The video is a part of Arc’teryx’s Hut Magic campaign and is a result of a partnership between the Vancouver-based company, Destination BC and the Northern BC Tourism Association.
The video was shot at the Bernie Glacier Hut and the surrounding terrain.
“Northern B.C. is one of those places that is one of the frontier locations for our activities,” said global digital marketing manager for Arc’teryx Jurgen Watts. “It’s not often spoken about compared to the major ski centres … this is a way for us to go somewhere most people haven’t done any storytelling and really showcase that.”
The video follows six people as they travel across the terrain for some backcountry skiing before returning to their hut for supper.
The project was shot using Google’s GoPro Odyssey by Switchback Entertainment director and producer Anthony Bonello.
Bonelle got the camera by applying to Google’s Jump Start program which loans cameras to filmmakers and production companies looking to create content in stereoscopic 360. Participants in the program also receive access to Google’s Jump Assembler which is a cloud-based virtual reality video stitcher.
The Odyssey looks like a donut with 16 GoPros in an array.
Bonello said they essentially shot the video blind. To preview shots he had to download footage from the memory cards of all the GoPros, which ends up being half a terabyte, and then upload the footage to the stitcher.
The stitcher would correct any lens distortion and other issues and it would be sent back to him as a huge file he would need to download, after which he would be able to finally see his shot. This process took a lot of time because they were in a rural area with limited bandwidth.
“We’re shooting these shots with no idea if they’re really working,” said Bonello. “It was stressful but in a fun kind of way.”
After the week-long shoot the film entered a five-month post production phase.
Part of the reason why it took so long to edit is because virtual reality technology is still relatively new and there aren’t a lot of guidelines on how to properly edit the video, said Bonello.
He even had to get developers from Amsterdam to build an app that relied on a gaming engine in order to play back the footage.
“Because it’s such heavy footage it just bogs down computers,” said Bonello. “It’s a really cool experience but you can’t get to play without glitches. All of this was very experimental and totally trial and error.”
Arc’teryx started working with Northern BC Tourism in January and started filming in February.
Northern BC Tourism reached out to people and organizations in the Bulkey Valley for the film crew and put together an itinerary for them.
“They’re a really, really, fun high-energy group,” Tasha Peterson, Northern BC Tourism content and social media specialist, said of the crew. “I think they were really happy with their experience in Smithers.”
The clothing brand released the video on their YouTube channel and built mini ski huts in their stores across North America and London, England where customers can watch the virtual reality video.
The company will also be giving customers who make an online order a free copy of their magazine, Lithographica, which features stories about locals Brian Hall, developer for Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Skiing, and Jevon Zyp, Skeena Catskiing’s founder and operator.
Hall is the go-to person for information about Hankin-Evelyn. Four film crews and 25 photojournalists have sought out his help while working on stories about the area.
“Sometimes it can be intimating when a big film crew rolls into town but they were really down to earth and open,” said Hall.