“There’s just this larger-than-life feeling about the Needles,” the renowned climber Alex Honnold says over footage of him free-soloing one of the range’s spires in southern California’s Sequoia National Park. “They have this mythical reputation almost, because not many people come out here. You feel like you’re just out there by yourself.”
Thanks to a new virtual reality video series, it’s now possible for thousands of people to feel this sense of solitude, all at the same time.
The series, “Home Turf,” is the result of a collaboration between outdoor production veterans Camp4 Collective and virtual reality studio Jaunt VR. So far they’ve released four immersive videos showcasing top athletes: Alex Honnold climbing the Needles, Galen Volckhausen kayaking in Iceland, Cameron Zink mountain biking in Utah, and “Sketchy Andy” Lewis slacklining in Moab.
This is certainly not a first in the world of virtual-reality adventure—in fact, Jaunt and Camp4 have already teamed up before, in Nepal. The 360-degree experience just seems like a natural progression from GoPro footie. By enlisting some of the biggest names in extreme sports in this new series, Jaunt makes the case that VR isn’t just cool tech, it’s a superior way to enjoy an adrenaline rush.
Virtual reality creators must relinquish control in the sense that viewers control the direction of their gaze, but it’s easy to see how our natural reactions can make quick work of such heart-pounding footage. As Honnold talks about how secure he feels while free-soloing, tilt the camera downward and see just how far he could fall. In Moab, turn slowly to see the improbable length of Lewis’s slackline. This is also a great medium for incredulous double-takes, if you want to look back and forth between Volckhausen’s kayak and the gushing waterfall that just spit him out.