Arguably the UK’s prettiest place and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District crowns England with a series of breathtaking lakes, hills and mountains. The annual Lakes Alive arts festival held in Kendal wanted to capture the beauty of the area and to take visitors on a journey that few could ever experience for real – a flight through the countryside like that of a bird without leaving their seat.
The resulting immersive experience was to be rolled out at events but it was also fulfilling a secondary purpose to contribute to the campaign for UNESCO World Heritage Site status that was in a critical stage at the time.
The Lakes Alive festival and Lake District National Park teams brought in expert collaborators including Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University along with Liverpool’s drone filming dons Ironbird to ensure the complex logistics and technical demands of the Bird Hive 360 VR project went as smoothly as possible.
The resulting 360 film was breathtaking, the next step was taking it into a virtual environment. This meant taking film and placing it into Unity 3D, the versatile video game engine that Draw & Code are adept at adapting into use across all kinds of sectors.
One of the big questions posed by virtual reality is how to direct the viewers attention without the use of editing or cinematography; in effect the user is the director of their own film. In this case the lakes themselves did that for us, although we experimented with different ways of displaying captioned text to guide the user, eventually opting for simple, static text that did not distract from the visuals.
All of this was optimised for display on mobile with a fleet of Samsung Gear VR headsets being chosen as the ideal way to experience Bird Hive, its capabilities standing it above the other mobile platforms available to us at the time and giving the event team freedom to run multiple units in an outdoor environment. Indeed, Lakes Alive commissioned a specially built environment replete with deckchairs to allow visitors to sit back and take flight in complete comfort.
After debuting at the Kendal Calling music festival, the Bird Hive 360 VR app took centre stage at the brilliant Lakes Alive event. In a courtyard adjacent to an arts and cinema venue, those who queued to experience Bird Hive were treated to a 360 VR experience that delighted all and brought us a little closer to the view of the birds fluttering overhead.
At the conclusion of the events, it was announced that the Lakes had been successful in their bid for UNESCO World Heritage status. The Bird Hive 360 experience also featured as a central part of academic research conducted by leading immersive technology academic Dr Timothy Jung’s team at Manchester Metropolitan University.