Immersive Oceans

Latest update August 30, 2019 Started on January 15, 2019
sea

Through Virtual Reality immersive experiences, we intend to make the marine environment more familiar to the general public. Our goal is to create a series of episodes where the adventurer will explore the incredible ecosystems of Abrolhos.

January 15, 2019
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In The Field

Coastal Reefs - A real jewel in the Abrolhos Bank.


We just shot the last seascape of our 360 journey - and it was amazingly beautiful. The Abrolhos region relies on a rather large inner arch of reef formations, just ~7nm off the coast. It is the mid-way through our virtual adventure and the day we chose to register it could not be any better.

Check it yourself :)

Now we are on the final steps of our project. The 3-episode series will be released next month! We are VERY excited to share our view of this region with the world - and, fortunately, bring the whole public closer to the Ocean.

Humpback Whales 360º. YEAH!


What an achievement. We were fairly worried about the presence of the whales in our journey.

Not anymore :)

After some audacious attempts, we managed to fly the (drone + 360' camera) on top of these magnificent creatures. No words to describe the emotion of doing so, neither the amazingness of the results watched in the VR headset.

ABROLHOS360 is now rushing towards its final phase, almost everything was shot already!

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Remarkable May 31st


It started as usual: we woke up and walked 1km to the highest peak of the island. While eating breakfast I had my eyes fixed in the horizon, when suddenly a blow is spotted right next to Siriba Island. The HUMPBACKS made it to the archipelago!! I prepared the drone straight away and sent it 1,6km away from the point I was. There they were, two adults slowly navigating behind the island. The 2019’ season is officially open and we couldn’t be any happier. Welcome you all!

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Debriefing

WE WERE AWARDED AN OPEN ROV TRIDENT!


Breaking news!! Immersive Oceans was chosen by the S.E.E. Initiative to receive a Remote Underwater Vehicle. Now all of our expeditions will count with this cutting-edge technology to explore the world beneath the waves. Big thanks to Sofar Ocean and National Geographic. It looks like the future is ACTUALLY now!

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In The Field

Shrimp Fishery


The most common fishing activity for community sustenance among fishermen in southern Bahia. Not surprisingly, we intended to picture that operation and add it to the Coastal Episode of the 360' journey.

A friend of ours took us together on his boat and we departed at 3:00 AM to go fishing. Results: amazing experience, incredible footage and a very representative local form of livelihood, portrayed.

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We are applying for an underwater ROV!


The S.E.E. (Science Exploration Education) initiative is funding underwater ROVs for those who are engaged in marine conservation ideas.

As for our Immersive Oceans' expeditions, the OpenROV Trident would be of great assistance. We’ve had the chance to try out a Trident ROV from a friend of ours before, and it was amazing to see its potential.

Hopefully, our application will be awarded and soon Immersive Oceans will count with this high-end technology! Our will is to use this tool to explore new sites, gather great underwater footage and safely inspect potential dive sites for shooting 360’, as well as performing monitoring of the increasingly common bleaching events affecting the corals of Abrolhos.

Fingers crossed!

Fabio Negrão works as a divemaster with local tourism operators. This weekend he had the chance to take the 360’ camera with him, with the mission of shooting some shipwrecks in the Abrolhos Archipelago!


He just returned and showed us some of his achievements - and we are astonished! He managed to capture the famous Atlantic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) in the shipwreck Guadiana. Fabio also got great footage of the divers exploring the ship structure, which fits the story pretty well. Not satisfied, he took the camera to a night dive and obtained a one-in-a-lifetime shot of a Green Moray GETTING OUT OF ITS BURROW and simply passing right next to the camera. With AWESOME lighting! Fabio, that’s it, my friend. What a great sequence of images to add up to the project :).

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Days are beautiful and we woke up early to casually shoot a 360’ sunrise by the coast. The beach is 100 meters away from our home and we love sunrises, so that was no hard task at all!


As our immersion initiates here, we are now putting some effort into shooting in the land. Today it was particularly beautiful and we earned not only beautiful footage but a great way to start up the day. Hands up those who love what they do! :)

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FullDome.


Excellent news!! April is the anniversary month of the Abrolhos Marine National Park. For the celebrations, the National Park managed to bring and exhibit an OCEANARIUM with 360’ images from our project #ABROLHOS360!

A successful partnership with a Brazilian NGO called ‘Mantas do Brasil’ made it possible. They have the Full Dome, in which they exhibit an incredible immersive video of their own.

We created a 9-minute video narrated by Marina and focused on communicating about the importance and uniqueness of the Abrolhos Marine National Park. Five cities within the so-called Whale’s Coast were visited over 8 days, and over 4.500 people experienced the immersion! Feedbacks were incredible as local communities had the opportunity to virtually visit the Abrolhos Archipelago through some breathtaking images we managed to shoot so far. We are so happy to collaborate with the April celebrations! These days really inspired us to keep up with this rewarding project. And here we go!

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April 12nd & 13rd - Mangrove weekend!


Apr 12. Friday afternoon we left to a region called ‘Caribe de Baixo’, some ~5nm upriver, to meet a friend of Deangelys who would show us some nice spots to shoot. The guy was out for hunting, though his parents were at home: Sir Clovis and Ms. Maria. A quick tour around their wooden inhabitation, a handful of native fruits and the couple had gained our hearts. Maria took us for a long walk across the mangrove, a path she does every single day to visit her family members. As we passed through different types of vegetation, Marina, I and Deangelys were delighted.

Maria made a few stops to verify the homemade wooden traps she uses to capture blue-land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi, locally called Guaiamum). Some had their bait stolen by smart crabs, others triggered accidentally, a few had below-average size crabs which she immediately released. We came back a couple of hours later with two good catches and some awesome footage of Maria’s dexterity in such a harsh environment. Notwithstanding this successful afternoon, we made a last 360’ flight in a colorful sunset by the river before navigating home at night, with a large smile on each of our faces.

Apr 13. 5:20 AM. The sun was rising and I and Marina were already flying the 360’ setup to get that aerial view from the city pier. We departed early towards a place called ‘Miringaba’, located in the corner of the most winding curve of the river - an outstanding view from above. Three families live there and they were all engaged in cleaning and preparing recently captured crabs. We were welcomed, and it did not take long for us to sit in their yard eating some of those - delicious - crabs. When we decided to fly the drone, the aerial perspective astonished us and them. One of the most spectacular views from the local mangrove for sure!

We left them as the tide descended before the boat became stranded. Our final stop was further upriver, a site known as the ‘Rio do Largo’ (river enlargement) - not surprisingly, named after its notable increase in width across a length of ~500 meters. There Marina and I, nervous as we could possibly be, conducted our first onboard 360’ flight. Taking off a DJI Inspire + Gimbal + Camera in a small fishing boat is no easy task. The wind was blowing stronger too. In summary: terrible flying experience, not comfortable at all, but a fair descent aerial 360’ footage. Good enough :)

That was an above-average weekend. We now have the Sunday to spend watching the footage and selecting some photos to print and take to these amazing people who received us. We will return to the mangroves in a couple of weeks!

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Mangroves - the first marine ecosystem to be experienced in our journey off the coast. Mangroves in Bahia are among the largest ones in Brazil, and we can find some quite preserved areas bordering the Caravelas River down to its mouth.


We planned three day-trips to begin our exploration of some key points in the mangrove. Winding river curves, traditional riverside communities and wildlife were our targets. I and Marina counted with the essential assistance of two of our friends: Bruna and Deangelys. They are engaged in encouraging touristic development in local mangroves and are also heading a land and infrastructure recovery project in particular sites. Bruna and Didi arranged a small boat owned by Captain Zeze, a very kind person who guided us wisely and safely through the river.

In our first stop [March 31st] we were introduced to one of the most praised men of the riverside area in Caravelas: Sir João Heleno. At the age of 82, he lives by the river for over 30 years and is probably the most friendly person we have ever met. João Heleno receives visitors all the time and always do his best to make people feel at home. We did not miss the opportunity to show him some 360’ footage from Abrolhos in the VR headset! João had never been to the islands and he was absolutely thrilled as he experienced the immersive underwater world just 70km off his home. Witnessing his emotions made us all very excited and fulfilled. He then took us to trail in his terrain, which is one of the recovery sites intended by Bruna and Deangelys. A couple of hours walking and learning a substantial amount of information from him, and we finished our walk with a river bath as the sun set.

We navigated back home rather impressed with the beauties of the mangrove and the mind full of shooting ideas. In ten days we’d be coming back with Captain Zeze [!] to explore other areas into the river basin.

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CDMX NatGeo Explorer Festival


We took a quick break in our project activities to attend the 2019 NatGeo Explorer Festival in Ciudad de Mexico!

… and what a lifetime experience! I was impressed as I met 24 other explorers, all of them are great personalities leading incredible projects. The first days were simply mind-blowing as we learned from Lisa Witter how to understand the leadership within each of us, and how to be impactful in our talks. There would be no better way to prepare ourselves to the special moment of our spotlight talk on the 19th March, in front of NatGeo staff and partners.

Added to photography, videography and social media training, the festival definitely exceeded my expectations. Fortunately, I could bring together the Oculos GO, and share some preview content from our recently concluded expedition with fellow explorers, NatGeo staff and random people in Mexican streets. People reaction to our content was wondrous!! I was delighted in joy as I heard great feedback from everyone.

The impact of everything I learned throughout those days cannot be put into words, and much of it is still being digested in my mind. I am deeply thankful to the whole NatGeo staff and to all fellow explorers, amazing people who I had the blessed opportunity to connect with. Attending this event was absolutely a life-changing experience.

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-Part III-


Marina is back! So happy to operate with her again. Guabiroba and Lucas came as well.

Sea turtles and two more flights were the highlights these days. With good weather conditions, we managed to fly 360’ over the Siriba and Redonda islands. Flying operation is way easier when there are 2+ people involved, as tasks and weighs are shared. Marine and I have operated together with drones for over a year now, from light terrestrial flights to hardcore take-offs from navigating vessels in rough seas. Guabiroba assisted us when flying over Siriba and registered some awesome behind the scenes! He also encouraged us to shoot some tide pools, and we actually obtained some interesting scenes of these small-scale environments.

Marina made her way through a feeding green turtle and captured astonishing footage of this moment - quite close to the animal. This shot was attempted over 30 times for sure. In this meanwhile, a still camera witnessed two other green turtles fighting for a spot in a cleaning station reef, where individuals spend a good amount of time getting their bodies cleaned by small fishes. We concluded our first expedition following the Reef Check operation conducted by the National Park members, Great days. Now, time to watch the huge material (over 500 GB from this expedition alone), identify the gaps and plan our way to fill them. New updates to come soon!

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-Part II-


Intangible Islands.

Days were passing and I was desiring more and more to shoot at both the intangible islands: Sueste and Guarita. Logistic was not easy as landing in these two areas is not very simple.

Still, in the week of the 20th February, the weather was perfect. Perfect enough to depart to both missions on the 22nd and 23rd, two consecutive days of pure amazingness.

On the 22nd it was still dark when we left. At 5:10 AM I was on the top of the Guarita Island, placing the camera in a rock where no one but researchers is allowed to step. Guarita is the birthplace of Brown noddy, a small seabird that used to migrate away from Abrolhos in the summer. However, this year they decided to stay! Over 2.000 nests fulfill the smallest island of the Archipelago, justifying its status of intangible and making every step extra cautious. Placed the camera and left. Suddenly we were watching the sun breaking the horizon and painting the island with golden yellow ink, while the birds flew in massive numbers celebrating the day to come. Incredible footage, happiness all over the crew.

As the weather continued stable, the day after we led to Sueste Island, the furthest away from our base in Santa Barbara. Landing the small boat is hard there, and I managed to set up a camping-site on the western side of the island. My main goal was to fly the drone, though we have not had the opportunity to fly yet for safety reasons, as it is a difficult operation to conduct alone. Nevertheless, the wind was so calm that I felt confident enough to perform the whole thing in a cautious way: taking off the drone and attaching the structure (gimbal + camera) in mid-air. Success, great flight and yielded us ~5 minutes of aerial footage over one of the most appealing scenarios in the Archipelago. There we were, returning to Santa Barbara after nailing great footage in both the hardest islands to shoot. What a great week to be alive!

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The first expedition to the Abrolhos Archipelago!
-Part I-

Before anything, we must thank the Abrolhos Marine National Park team for the full logistical support that made this expedition happen.

Uau. It was as amazing as it could possibly be. Our first 360’ fieldwork started on the 8th of February and lasted for 21 days. It could be divided into two sections: (i) 3-day trip with Daniel and Felipe Buloto to test the gear and predict possible issues; (ii) 18 continuous days where the operating team was rearranged a couple of times and a LOT happened!

Testing days were great. Not only everything was working perfectly, but we also managed to shoot some incredible footage of fish schools. We also figured out the best camera position to shoot moving scenes underwater, which was kinda tricky due to the large nadir presence of the dive housing.

For the first 2 days of our longest leg in the islands, I and Marina had the chance to share the lodge with three researchers who were performing GPS-employing work with the seabirds of Abrolhos. That opportunity yielded some awesome footage of ongoing research procedures, such as capturing and attaching the devices, biometry and blood collecting. We also followed the reef check operation on our very first day, where perfectly suitable scenes in an incredible scenario portrayed another monitoring activities taking place in the islands.

After three days, Marina had to leave for her other missions and I stood there operating alone for the next 10 days. It was a pretty exhausting routine, as I was concerned about shooting as much as I could. Awake for sunrise in 8 out of these 10 days, I focused on the trivial but important stuff in the beginning: feeding masked-boobies (the most common seabirds in the Archipelago), scenic sunsets, daily activities such as navigating around the islands in the small boat, the guided track in Siriba Island. Lucky me I had the amazing full moon to contemplate in the Abrolhos Islands and renew my energies :)

As we acquired confidence with the camera and the best angles to shoot, more bold stuff started happening! See Part II!

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Preparation

Gears covered, time to introduce our team members. There are 5 of us, each of which has their own capabilities to cooperate with the overall project.


From left to right:

Daniel Venturini and Marina Angeli represent ECO360 and coordinate the project. We are both biologists and filmmakers who came to the region in 2015 to work with humpback whales’ research. We have both been volunteers of the Abrolhos Marine National Park, and together we founded ECO360 in 2017. Oh, we are also lovers :)

Helder Guabiroba is an oceanographer, expert in fish ecology. He has over 100 dives in the waters of Abrolhos and has great knowledge about the reef environment.

Fabio Negrão is a scientific diver with over 15 years of experience in the Abrolhos region. He has participated in several expeditions to shoot ocean-related documentaries, which yielded him a great and valuable experience with underwater filming.

Lucas Cabral is an oceanographer and is part of the Abrolhos Marine National Park staff, as a Research Assistance. Lucas worked with the Abrolhos reef formations and mapping during his masters and have substantial knowledge about the Abrolhos ecosystem!

Felipe Buloto is a direct collaborator, official consultant, conservationist, and tourism operator. He has been a park ranger in the Abrolhos Marine National Park for 4 years hence knows a lot about the archipelago area, both terrestrial and underwater!

Together we are doing our best to make #ABROLHOS360 as incredible as it could possibly be. We are fortunate to count with some great local partners as well, which have a big role in making it happen. These are: The Abrolhos Marine National Park team; local tourism operators: Horizonte Aberto, Natura Ecoturismo, Sanuk Turismo, Abrolhos Embarcações and Abrolhos Adventure; the Humpback Whale Institute and International Conservation.

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Gear!
[VR Headset]

Finally. Here is where the magic happens!

Oculos Go, for sure the best option for the task. Around 10 of these will be held in the Visitor Center of the Abrolhos Marine National Park, in a customized space for the immersions to take place - ANXIETY!.

We chose it because Oculos Go is a standalone device. Yep, no extra hardware needed. It features a built-in 5.5-inch display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, internal memory (32 or 64gb) and a pretty decent battery life of ~3 hours of usage. Absolutely portable, 360’ content may be transferred straight into the device via USB cable and the headset can be taken anywhere. It does not cost much too: ~200US$.

So far we bought only one sample, in order to assist the editing and exhibit preview samples to collaborators, local community members, researchers, random people in the streets… pretty much anyone.

We cannot describe our emotions as we see people reacting to the immersive experience. Every time we edit some cuts and show to anyone, a sense of being in the right path comes by.

Virtual Reality is a terrific tool to touch people. To inspire, inform and engage. VR FOR CONSERVATION!

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Gear!
[Aerial Footage - pt II]

Shooting aerial 360 is a challenge, mainly because of stabilization issues. Added to our relatively low budget, we needed to seek an inexpensive solution to address high-quality, stabilized aerial footage.

The structure we have idealized was a combination of our 360 Camera (Ricoh Theta V) + our 360 gimbal (Moza Guru 360). The whole thing weighs 565 grams.

Our first attempt was to attach this long, pendulum-shaped structure to a DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Total failure. The P4P actually lifted the weigh, but it seems to be too small to compensate for the constant side-to-side movement of the structure. The drone landed upside-down in our test but it still works just fine and we are constantly using it to register the making off of our expeditions :).

Solution: Fortunately, we knew someone who was selling a used DJI Inspire One. It is a much stronger and bigger drone. 36 hours after our failing test, Daniel and Marina were driving 750km to meet this guy and buy the gear. He even allowed us to TEST it with the structure and it worked perfectly. 96 hours and 1500km after our P4P failure we were back home with a new and functional drone to operate the mission!

Without the native camera (to decrease the weigh) and with an adapter we came up with (see in the pictures), we were able to safely attach the structure (Gimbal + Camera) and happily fly around the Abrolhos Region!

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Gear!
[Aerial Footage - pt I]

That is a long story, but let's make it short. Preparation was arduous with this one.

The aerial scenario is absolutely breathtaking in the Abrolhos Region. Let's stick to this information in this post.

We will leave you guys with some samples from places we will be shooting for the VR journey, and you will understand the importance of immersing people into overflights over this area.

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GEAR!
[360 Camera - pt II]

Stability.

As our final product will be delivered in VR headsets, stability is a must concern. We need to provide a comfortable immersive experience, where the user is able to enjoy both the scenarios AND the information.

To achieve so, we either create fixed shots using the 360' camera in a monopod or moving shots with the camera attached to a gimbal.

The monopod we use is the Manfrotto 360. It reaches almost eye-level in height, is a bit expensive but rather sturdy. Under windy conditions or underwater, we usually attach extra weight in the bottom of the monopod to avoid it from falling.

For moving scenes, we use the Moza Guru 360 Gimbal. It costs 300 US$ and is designed specifically for 360 cameras. It is really easy to use and balance! We are actually in love with the outcome footage it provides.

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GEAR!
[360 Camera - pt I]

Ricoh Theta V. That was our choice!

With two wide-angle lenses on both sides, it captures 4k dual fish-eye footage. After converting the scenes to equirectangular view, it is already ready to be visualized in VR headsets or uploaded in YouTube.

Our decision was made based on one single factor: its underwater diving case. Despite its rather notable nadir, the case was claimed for its seamless underwater stitching - due to a dome capable of compensating for underwater light refraction. As the underworld is one of our most appealing scenarios: decision made.

Despite some real disadvantages, such as the lack of SD card (internal memory of 19gb instead) and NO replaceable batteries - which leads to regular field working stops to back up the footage and format the memory -, the camera is simple to use and very lightweight.

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GEAR!
[Introduction]

This is probably the topic we spent most of our pre-planning time. Which gear is required to shoot 360 videos from ALL different perspectives?!

In our VR journey, we intend to offer the viewers the underwater, aerial, terrestrial and onboard angles. Our budget is not the biggest, therefore we had to seek affordable and good-quality solutions. We will be operating in rough conditions, sometimes in the mud, others under the hard sun. Gear must be transported from one island to the other. SALT is always present!

We decided to properly share this experience with the world. Mainly because most of the answers to our questions were not found on the internet. Therefore, we created a short video explaining it all: what we use, why and how.

Specific posts for each piece of equipment will take place soon, but for now: enjoy the video and a quick spoiler list of the must-have items.

360' camera: RICOH THETA V; Dive housing: TW1-RICOH; 360 gimbal: MOZA GURU; Drone: INSPIRE ONE; VR headset: OCULOS GO; Monopod: MANFROTTO 360.

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Expedition Background

Through Virtual Reality experiences in the marine ecosystem, we believe it is possible to bring the oceans closer to the communities. We will take people into an immersive, informative journey, where the adventurer will have the chance to explore the oceans from all different perspectives: underwater, aerial and onboard. These experiences will allow people the opportunity to get touched by the magic wilderness of the blue, regardless of limitations related to personal constraints or Marine Protected Areas no-entry restrictions, where visitation is forbidden.


Here, we will be sharing our personal achievements and challenges we face throughout our expeditions. Our first target is the Abrolhos Region, an area of outstanding beauty in the southern Bahia, Brazil. It is the most biodiverse spot in the South Atlantic Ocean, composed of preserved mangroves, unique reef formations, shipwrecks, and the Abrolhos Archipelago.

Our final product will be delivered as a series of ~5 episodes, where the adventurer will explore each one of the amazing marine environments in the region. The journey will be available in VR headsets at the Visitor Center of the Abrolhos Marine National Park and widely disseminated online in video platforms for the world. Rich information will incorporate these experiences, in order to inspire, educate and propagate ocean literacy.

Daniel Venturini and Marina Angeli are the founders of ECO360. Join us! :)

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