From the makers of the award-winning documentary Empire comes a 360 degree documentary that aims to put you face-to-face with the most endangered species on the planet: the northern white rhinoceros.

Kel O'Neill and Eline Jongsma
photo by Myrna Suarez/Film Society Lincoln Center

Called The Ark, documantarians Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill are bringing their collective expertise to tell the story of the northern white rhino, its battle for survival, and the dedicated people behind the effort to preserve a species that has been pushed to the brink of extinction by poachers and destruction of their natural habitat.

Jongsma and O’Neill plan on capturing the rhinos’ habitats—Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the San Diego Zoo—in 360 monoscopic video via a 10 GoPro array so you can visit with the last four alongside their human guardians.

If the fate of the species looks grim, you’d be right to worry. Natural repopulation is almost entirely impossible, as the last surviving male is well past his prime at 42 years old, and has to live under 24-hour watch by a team of machine gun-totting Kenyan park rangers to fend off any would-be poachers. And while there is an ongoing effort to repopulate the northern white rhino through stem cell technology and in vitro fertilization thanks to the San Diego Frozen Zoo and its ‘genetic rescue’ program, the field of cryopreservation is still in its infancy.

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rhino bodyguards
Sudan, one of the last four northern white rhinos, under 24-hour watch – photo by Ami Vitale

As the project puts it bluntly, “The Ark offers a way to know these animals—to be in their presence—even in the event of their extinction.”

Help Support ‘The Ark’ on Kickstarter

The project’s Kickstarter campaign reached its initial $21,500 funding goal within the first 5 days of its launch, and is well on its way to a $40,000 stretch goal, an amount that’s earmarked to help with the laborious post production process. Fans of 360 film will appreciate the extra time and effort taken when it comes to removing the numerous stitching artifacts that can put you off even the most compelling content.

the ark 360 documentary

VR headset owners can download a short clip that shows some of the San Diego Zoo portion of shoot. The clip can be viewed on  Gear VR by dropping the mp4 file into the ‘360 video’ file directory under the Oculus app folder. Tethered VR headsets can view the video using the 360 video player function of Virtual Desktop.

You can also view the 360 trailer directly in your browser on Vrideo, a 360 video steaming platform that also works on the WebVR enabled version of Firefox for VR headsets.

The trailer’s stitching, which was done by Vrideo, is some of the best I’ve seen. According to O’Neill, the short clip took nearly 2 weeks to clean up, and really shows both Vrideo and the project team’s dedication to getting 360 monoscopic video right.

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