How Virtual Reality revived one of Manitoba’s oldest recording studios

Virtual Reality is an immersive, life-sized 3D or stereoscopic image / environment. (Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)

Our teams in the regions are keen to experiment with innovative storytelling tools. What’s sometimes viewed as a constraint, namely budget, can often be the catalyst to creativity.

In March, CBC Manitoba opened its doors to the public for a glimpse of how their local newsrooms operate. But this wasn’t your ordinary Open House. Visitors made encouragement buttons with Now or Never and learned the basics of Indigenous languages with Unreserved — shows that are produced in Winnipeg. You can read more about the Open House here.

Participants made encouragement buttons as part of the Open House. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BvFXvTEHVjm/)

But the showpiece was a trip back in time — through the magic of virtual reality (VR) — to Studio 11, the iconic recording studio used by legendary Canadian artists such as Glenn Gould, the Crash Test Dummies, Ray St. Germain and many more.

Using VR/360 video, the Studio 11 project gives Canadian’s an inside experience of the CBC Manitoba studio.

“We wanted to knock people’s socks off with this virtual reality idea,” says Lindsay MacKenzie, senior communications officer in Manitoba.

Lindsay got wind of our VR/AR/MR (virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality) working group that helps CBC teams across the country create immersive experiences. She reached out to us to pitch the idea of building a virtual reality video of Studio 11.

Delivering a high-impact project like this pulls in a broad range of experts, including videographers, graphic designers, editors, developers and producers. This collaboration also united colleagues from Manitoba, Toronto and Montreal.

“I knew the station had a camera person who could shoot 360° video and I knew I could find archival footage,” added Lindsay. “But I was thrilled to find out that we have a talented team that is passionate about VR storytelling.”

Experimenting with innovative storytelling

We started exploring storytelling with VR and AR in 2015 — partnering with outside companies to expand our knowledge base and create projects such as: Highway of Tears, An Up-Close Encounter with Bratatouille, a Bold Polar Bear in Churchill Manitoba, WACTE, une expérience en réalité virtuelle and more.

Highway of Tears is the story of one young woman, Ramona Wilson, who went missing along the highway in 1994 as told by her mother Matilda Wilson.

We’ve since created a VR/AR/MR working group to help keep our finger on the VR/AR pulse. The goal of the group is to experiment with technologies and emerging storytelling trends in order to collect information that can inform future decision making.

Our group consists of 20 subject matter experts with diverse backgrounds and serves as a consulting body for CBC’s VR/AR projects across the country. We see VR/AR as a medium that can support the stories we already tell and act as an additional layer for our audiences to not only read and watch our content but also experience our stories in a new way.

By placing the audience in the heart of the story, VR stories hit the emotional core in a way traditional media is unable to.

3-week turnaround

The Studio 11 project showcased how much we can do with VR when we combine cross-regional forces. The 360° camera was shipped from Toronto to Manitoba and the teams used Google Drive to share archival video, design files, sound effects, and the raw 360° footage.

In just three weeks the project was tested, completed and uploaded to Youtube and Facebook with an accompanying article on cbc.ca. To date, the VR video has more than 45,000 views.

It’s exciting to see what future opportunities for collaboration might emerge and how VR/AR will evolve in the coming years.


Studio 11 360° Project Credits:

Manitoba: Tyson Koschik (cameraman), Duk Han Lee (graphic designer), Lindsay Mckenzie (project owner)

Toronto: Project manager/producer Vanja Mutabdzija, consultants Ilia Ovsichtcher and Dwight Friesen

Montreal: Marc Laforest (editor)