Tim Hetherington Visionary Grant Winners 2014: Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill Update.


Visionary Award Winners Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill have successfully completed filming in Kenya for their project ‘The Ark’, following the successful Kickstarter campaign to supplement the initial award.

The Ark is a virtual reality documentary that immerses viewers in parallel stories of the African and American teams of rangers and scientists fighting to conserve the world’s last four remaining northern white rhinoceros. The documentary explores how their conservation tactics harness different technologies and reflect diverse cultural perspectives ,revealing contradictions and connections between two seemingly unrelated cultures engaged in a shared mission.

The project uses 360° virtual reality technology to place viewers directly into the action, allowing viewers to explore the rhinos' last habitats including Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the San Diego Zoo. The project also introduces park rangers and scientists who have devoted their lives to protecting the species, highlighting the efforts made by those in connection to the animal.

The project launched with an initial shoot in San Diego funded by the Visionary Award and once completed, the Kickstarter campaign was set up to see the film through the next stage of production.  Kel O’Neill comments, ‘The Kickstarter’s really there to get us to Kenya so we can get 360° footage of Sudan and the other rhinos before they disappear from the planet. Bear in mind there were seven northern white rhinos when we started working on this project a year and a half ago. Now there are four.’  The Kickstarter campaign released an overwhelming wave of public support that fulfilled the intial goal of $21,000 within five days and went on to achieve an additional $14,000 that allowed and even more ambitious production plan.  As the duo note, ‘VR post is intense. Every shot in The Ark consists of ten distinct shots that must be stitched together into a 360° sphere. Next, effects artists step in to erase the stitching lines, camera shadows, and lighting differences between cameras. After that, the sound designer creates a 3D sound mix that reflects the spatial reality of the image we’ve captured. Then developers step in to create an app that will play back the experience on your smart phone. This is a lot of work, but several upstart companies have already volunteered to drop their post-production prices down to well below market to help bring The Ark to life.’

The success of the Kickstarter campaign highlights both the trust and hunger people have for such rich documentary work. All we have to do now is wait and see how the project develops and comes together. We wish the duo all the success with the project and look forward to seeing the final outcome.


Tim Hetherington Visionary Grant Winners 2014: Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill Update.