glueckauf.wdr.de is a multi award-winning web VR project which can be used on all types of devices directly in the browser, from smartphone, via desktop PC, the Samsung Gear VR, up to the high-end VR goggles like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. With or without virtual reality headset.
North Rhine Westphalia's last coal pits closed down at the end of 2018. An era which shaped the country,
both economically and socially, came to an end. Even after the last pit closure, you can experience the
awe-inspiring underground world with your own eyes: in our virtual pit.
Anyone accessing glueckauf.wdr.de on their device is ready for a pit cage trip into the depths.
Instead of guiding users in a linear way through the story as is the case in many other 360° video productions, viewers can interactively, individually and by themselves experience "their" pit on glueckauf.wdr.de. At the heart of the system is a Web VR experience which combines 360° live-action film with interactivity. The interface between the separate parts of the whole project isn’t the usual navigation menu. Instead a pit cage is available for the user. Whoever gets on board and selects their desired episode will a short while later, descend into the depths of the earth, accompanied by a few coal miners.
From its premiere at Prosper-Haniel pit, where coal miners were the first to be given the opportunity to
experience the project, "Bergwerk 360° VR" is on tour – among others at Gamescom and Photokina in
Cologne, Internationale Funkausstellung in Berlin, or NRW Day in Essen.
Additionally it is planned to bring the pit experience by VR truck to schools, museums and public places in NRW.
glueckauf.wdr.de is so far the most elaborate 360°/VR project of WDR. This is mainly due to the fact
that the use of electrically or electronically driven cameras underground is normally impossible.
Reason: even one single spark, occurring, for example, on battery replacement, can cause, in the old
mining term “firedamp” — a methane gas explosion underground. With traditional film and photo shooting
in 2D specially encapsulated rental cameras have therefore been used for years. But for the quite new
360° technology such special housings don’t exist. To build them and have them approved by the mining
office's technical inspection specialists would have cost enormous amounts but also at the end of the
day, a huge amount of time. The last pit would have closed down before the shooting had started.
That shooting was allowed to take place at more than 1,000m depth in 360° is owed to an exemption granted by the public authorities: for each shooting day ventilation (supply of fresh air) was maximised, areas with unsteady gas concentration were out of bounds and battery replacement was allowed only at the pithead. Additionally, the team was escorted at all filmings by members of the mine rescue team – flanked by specialists who checked the gas content of the ambient air on a regular basis with meters.
The extent to which this project also differed to any previous one in every single aspect became obvious, if it hadn't before, on the first day of shooting: the whole team faced each other in the pithead bath clad in the regulation blue of German miners. Because in the unluckiest cases, even underpants can cause flying sparks and thus firedamp, and therefore the pit also supplied the underwear for underground work. In double rib blue.
Incidentally, this project will probably remain forever the most elaborate and, most notably, the only 360° project produced in a German coal mine. This is because no further filming permits for 360° projects were granted up to the intended end of coal production in December 2018.