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August 11th, 2021 | by gibby zobel

A Guide to Virtual Reality: Top 9 Experiences about Space

For a few years now, VR content releases have been multiplying, and that's good news! Whether you are a beginner or not, here is a first guide to the best immersive content available - A selection by Gibby Zobel, filmmaker and journalist, who offers since the beginning of the year a practical guide to virtual reality on Reddit (link below).

Nine of the best space films and animations in VR. Reviews by Gibby Zobel, author of Gibby’s Guide to VR.

1ST STEP (Faber Courtial)

There’s just so much to take in 1ST STEP. Orbiting and standing on the moon with photo-realistic lunar panoramas based on Nasa data. Crammed inside the tiny capsule with Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins. But it’s the phenomenal view of Apollo 11 exiting Earth’s orbit from an impossible standpoint that takes the breath away.

A superb narration conveys the enormity of mankind’s greatest achievement. With judicial use of genuine crackling audio recordings of the time and clever use of archive footage, 1st step succeeds in transporting you back over a half a century. It’s impossible not to be moved.

An incredible piece of filmmaking from Faber Courtial. One of the greatest docs ever made about the moon landings.

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2ND STEP (Faber Courtial)

An imaginary journey into the near future, 2nd step takes you to the Shackleton-Crater on the dark side of the moon, flying over the lunar base that will be the jump-off point for the mission to Mars.

One lunar night is equivalent to 14 back on Earth, glimpsed as a fragile blue crescent hanging in the blackness of space.

Orbiting the red planet, you are soon standing with the golden-helmeted astronauts on the surface of the Martian desert, gazing open-mouthed at the edge of the deepest canyon in the solar system.

And in a fantastical finale, the search for a second Earth takes us to an unknown exoplanet, in what would be ‘the greatest discovery that man could make’. Epic.

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SPACE EXPLORERS: A NEW DAWN (Felix & Paul Studios)

Perhaps it’s the Russian-language course that young US astronaut Jeanette J. Epps is taking that best illustrates the post-Space Race world she grew up in.

Unity and co-operation seem a pretty good course of action seeing as the survival of the human race depends on it, as ‘either we will have destroyed the Earth or the Sun will have blown up’.

The interview-led narration follows the training of a new class of deep space explorers from being lowered into a swimming pool - sorry, ‘Buoyancy Lab’ - to flying in the cockpit of a T-38 jet. There’s even a moment that you realize that you are watching someone train using VR - in VR.

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SPACE EXPLORERS: TAKING FLIGHT (Felix & Paul Studios)

Beginning on the launch pad of SpaceX, you could be forgiven for thinking this will be a dive into the egos of tech billionaires Bezos, Branson and Musk.

Instead we are soon surrounded by bleating Mongolian camels in the Kazakhstan desert, site of the world’s largest space launch facility, to witness various awe-inspiring rockets thunder into the sky.

This episode is mostly narrated by kindly Russian cosmonauts, undergoing training for missions to the International Space Station. The overwhelming message is of civility. Thankfully directors Felix & Paul placed the cameras by the side of, and not on, the centrifuge simulation.

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SPACE EXPLORERS: THE ISS EXPERIENCE "ADAPT" (Felix & Paul Studios)

A very human look at a very alien environment, Adapt is the first of the four-part series. Floating through a mass of wires, tunnels, tubes and laptops are the four featured astronauts on the 22-year-old ‘outpost of humanity’.

‘The power of adaptation is one of the most beautiful aspects of the human mind, ’ declares David Saint-Jacques, as the crew get accustomed to ‘micro-gravity’ and the disorientation of ‘16 sunrises and 16 sunsets a day.’

As awe-inspiring images of the Earth pass underneath, the team tuck in to an amuse-bouche of brie and chutney and it’s the ordinary that calls your attention. The most important place on the $160 billion station? The bathroom.

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SPACE EXPLORERS: THE ISS EXPERIENCE "ADVANCE" (Felix & Paul Studios)

Advance is the second of a four-part series aboard the international space station by the vanguard of VR filmmaking, Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël.

Rejoining the crew, the film zooms in on the role of women and astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch pay tribute to Jerrie Cobb, blocked by Nasa from her own space flight 50 years earlier.

‘Science is organised curiosity’ declares Anne, as Christina tends to her precious mizuna greens growing incongruously amongst the tech.

The largest production ever filmed in space yields lovely intimate moments and a spectacular upside-down group hug ends with two leaving the mission.

If you're in Montreal, go and see THE INFINITE exhibition based on these Felix & Paul films.

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ØRSTED SPACE SAFARI (Ørsted)

A call to action on the climate emergency narrated by astronauts, the film is micro to macro zoom out from tree level to 100 kilometres above sea level and back. Sponsored by private Danish company Ørsted, it ends over one of their wind farms at sunset.

The making-of

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THE OVERVIEW EFFECT (Targo)

The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight. This film tries to recreate the effect to stimulate an ‘instant global consciousness’ and a desire to protect the planet.

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THE SPACEWALKER (CGF studio)

There’s a blizzard swirling around the launchpad of the Voskhod 2 rocket as it prepares for blast off in March, 1965. Step into the shoes of Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov as he becomes the first human in history to float freely in space.

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