Aotearoa Beckoning

WHEN TOURISM NEW ZEALAND NEEDED SOME IMMERSIVE CONTENT TO BEST CAPTURE THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF THE KIWI LANDSCAPE, IT EMPLOYED THE NIKON KEYMISSION 360. THIS WAS THE RESULT.

New Zealand - By Fraser Clements

As far as official duties go, it’s hard to imagine a better gig. The task: six weeks on location filming some of the most dramatic landscapes the world has to offer.

But for the film and production team charged with bringing the storytelling idea from concept to reality, Aurora VR, and its founder Jason Bentley the real work began much, much earlier.
It was almost two years ago when the relatively new Sydney-based film and virtual reality company heard Nikon was looking to launch an action range of shock, water, cold and dustproof camera able to shoot 360-degree video and still images.

The news coincided with rumours Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) was exploring ways of using 360 film to showcase the country as a prime tourist destination via a creative platform that had yet to be explored.

New Zealand - By Fraser Clements

The timing was serendipitous for both parties – the union marking the first time Nikon Australia had joined with a national tourism board to deliver stunning travel experiences. Its impacts will resonate the world over as the campaign also marks one of the first times visitors are able to experience the wonders of New Zealand prior to stepping foot on its soil, thanks to the wonders of virtual reality technology.

By March 2016 work had begun on developing the creative with Andy Blood from Facebook Creative Shop brought on board to drive strategy. Andy’s tagline ‘Something amazing around every corner, where the last thing we expect is often the very next thing we see’ was adopted and by August a first class production team had been assembled including talented TNZ photographer Fraser Clements, veteran New Zealand film director Sigi Spath, innovative Kiwi director of production Vinnie Manoit, Queenstown-based cinematographer Ben Ruffell and CGI artist Craig Rutherford.

New Zealand - By Fraser Clements

Having spent three weeks on reconnaissance and an additional three weeks filming, the group pushed the Nikon KeyMission 360, Nikon D5 and Nikon D810 camera bodies and Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G, Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.4G and Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm 2.8E FL ED VR lenses to their very limits – rigging them to helicopters, drones and kayaks as well as the actors themselves. The result was an impressive catalogue of real time imagery that showcases the ecology of the country including seals underwater, starry nights, glow worms and active volcanos as well as reflecting New Zealand’s reputation as an adventure hotspot, incorporating stunning action shots of ziplining and sky jumping.

The campaign saw the crew head to the world heritage site of Te Anau in the South Island where they filmed the stunning fjord of Doubtful Sound. The narrative was based around a Kea [a famously cheeky and kleptomaniac native bird] that steals the KeyMission camera to provide the viewer a bird’s eye view of Doubtful Sound as it glides through the Fjord.

Jason says it was here the magic of film came into play, eliminating the appearance of the drone and creating an iconic Kiwi bird. “Once we filmed the footage on the drone, the CGI team in post production eliminated the drone from the moving footage in the sky and built a CGI kea which when you look up is guiding the viewer through the footage.”

New Zealand - By Fraser Clements

A second scenario saw the KeyMission 360 used to shoot a starry night time lapse of the Southern Sky with the setup involving two Nikon D5s and lenses. The crew had initially feared encountering Fiordland’s challenging environmental conditions but were fortunate to strike a perfectly clear night. The result is a stunning 360 view of the southern stars with reflections of the Southern Lights.

The shoot also saw a KeyMission 360 rigged onto the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand – the Skycity Tower mast that stands 328m in the air – at 4am, resulting in breathtaking 360 time lapses of the Auckland sunrise and views of up to 80 kilometres in every direction.

Innovation was at the heart of this campaign with the crew cleverly combining the KeyMission 360 with the D5 to capture kayaking through the glow worms caves in the Bay of Plenty. Here, 360 stills were shot on the Nikon D5 and composited into 360 spherical photos.

Tourism New Zealand says the partnership presented the perfect opportunity “to add depth and richness” to New Zealand while promoting autumn travel. While for its part, Nikon Australia described the New Zealand scenery as the “perfect stage” to show the world the exciting capabilities that 360-degree filming can deliver.

New Zealand - By Fraser Clements

Jason says since launching in 2015, Aurora VR has worked with and tested a number of 360 cameras and he believes the KeyMission 360 is a clear leader in its field. Its versatility is impressive, he says, while pre and post-production was made significantly easier thanks to the camera’s 4k ultra HD single image capture and Snap Bridge app.

“The camera is easy to use, essentially point and shoot, [and] you can work with lighting exposure through SnapBridge for varying conditions. The [4k image capture] eliminates significant post-production time and costs. It also means with rapid movement on drones and helicopters that you don’t get blurry effects through changing light conditions.”

Filming and post-production for the TNZ campaign wrapped in January and the resulting footage appears as 15-second, 60-second and 2 minute, 30-second edits for Tourism New Zealand’s Facebook and social media channels. The first phase launched late last month and attracted more than 350,000 views in its first week.

New videos will be launched in coming weeks across TNZ’s Youtube and digital channels and for use on its virtual reality headsets. The Tourism New Zealand campaign can be seen on Nikon’s digital and social channels as well as via the TNZ website here, via its Facebook page here and on its Youtube channel here.

Words: Tracey Porter

Images: Fraser Clements