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Cannes, France, and Arlington, Va. USA (June 20, 2016) — Today, global NGO #conservationinternational debuts "Valen's Reef," an immersive and intimate virtual reality #film set in the most biologically diverse reefs on the planet. YouTube is showcasing it as part of a curated selection of virtual reality films at theYouTube Beach at the #canneslions International Festival of Creativity now through June 24. Viewers worldwide can dive into "Valen's Reef" exclusively on YouTube in 360-degrees and VR. Starting Friday, June 24, the #film also becomes available on the Within app. "Valen's Reef" was created in partnership with leading virtual reality production company Vrse.works and made possible with support from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
Filmed in the waters of eastern Indonesia's Bird's Head region, "Valen's Reef" takes viewers to vibrant reefs where 600 types of corals — far more than the Caribbean — and 1,765 species of fish — more than the Great Barrier Reef — are thriving. This is the site of one of the most successful community-based ocean conservation programs in the world, the Bird's Head Seascape Initiative. In the #film, local fisherman-turned-scientist Ronald Mambrasar narrates an underwater journey in lyrical Indonesian, sharing with his young son Valen the story of how this initiative has helped the community reclaim and protect their ancestral waters.
"Our oceans are under severe threat but we know one method — community-based conservation — can and does make a measurable difference," said Dr. M. Sanjayan, Conservation International's Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist. "In 'Valen's Reef,' we use the immersive power of virtual reality to transport you to the most biologically diverse sea on our planet, and one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time, to inspire love and support for our oceans."
While coral reefs occupy just a sliver of the planet's surface — 0.2% — they serve as habitat for more than 30% of fish in the ocean and generate at least $375 billion annually through food, shoreline protection and tourism. The Bird's Head, recently identified as a 'bright spot' for coral reefs by the journal Nature, is faring better than most and is replete with iconic species like sharks, manta rays, whales and sea turtles. Its thriving waters are evidence of how conservation that works in tandem with communities can succeed in protecting our oceans.
"The ocean is a critical resource for all of the world's #people, and yet many are still unaware of its plight," said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chairman and president of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. "Our Foundation is pleased to support 'Valen's Reef' and its story of coral conservation, as part of our ongoing efforts to preserve precious marine ecosystems."
"Virtual reality can transform the way we experience stories, teleporting viewers to distant places and cultures, as shown in 'Valen's Reef.' We're thrilled to include this stunning #film in our #canneslions lineup, focused on innovation in virtual reality storytelling," said Jamie Byrne, Director, YouTube Creators.
In making "Valen's Reef," the team from Vrse.works and #conservationinternational braved strong currents to accompany Mambrasar as he monitored the reefs with Valen, age 8. It is Vrse.works's second underwater VR #film and the crew used refined techniques to maximize the color and clarity of the image.
"'Valen's Reef' is a powerful illustration of the creative potential for storytelling and impact in virtual reality," said Patrick Milling Smith, Co-Founder and President, Vrse.works. "The central character is the planet, the natural world around us. This is cinematic VR at its most arresting and visceral with an important and urgent environmental message to the world."
Additional support for the distribution of "Valen's Reef" was provided by longtime CI partner glassybaby through the glassybaby white light fund. VICE Media also provided support for distribution as part of their growing commitment to support #sustainability initiatives.
Credit Images: #conservationinternational (C.I.)
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