Capturing Everest shows full-length VR documentaries are getting closer

Today marks the launch of Capturing Everest, a four-part virtual reality documentary that premieres today through Time Inc.’s Life VR appCapturing Everest is technically a miniseries, with four episodes of eight or nine minutes. But given that they’re being released together and follow a single story, it comes off as something more substantial than the bite-sized work that we’re used to in the VR world — even if by another medium’s standards, it would still be pretty short.

Capturing Everest follows three mountaineers — Lisa Thompson, Jeff Glasbrenner and Brent Bishop — in their journey to the mountain’s summit. (Glasbrenner, who was the first American amputee to climb Everest, was profiled in a Sports Illustrated cover story as well.) A partnership with Endemol Shine Beyond USA, it was shot over the course of two months last year, using a series of complex camera setups that allowed for 360-degree filming in one of the world’s most treacherous landscapes. It’s the latest of several pieces Time Inc. has published since launching its unified VR platform last fall.

The documentary isn’t as gorgeous as the unrelated climbing experience Everest VR; according to the creators, it’s intentionally rough and gritty. But as a Fast Company profile notes, it’s remarkable how much material people more used to climbing than filmmaking managed to capture, particularly in a dangerous environment like Everest. (Apparently, footage of the descent was actually lost when a sherpa had to drop it to keep from falling.) And in the wake of pieces like the 25-minute Follow My Lead, it’s part of a gradual move toward longer-form features — allowing for more complex, ambitious stories.