Stratford production company enabling virtual tourism experiences for the Waterloo region


Stratford’s Ballinran Entertainment is using its new Cinema 360 camera to capture virtual tourism experiences as part of a pilot project for Waterloo Region Tourism.

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A new pilot project underway between Stratford production company Ballinran Entertainment and Waterloo Region Tourism gives potential tourists the chance to explore sites and attractions before setting foot there.

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With the recent purchase of a Cinema 360 camera with funding provided last year as part of Communitech’s Digital Main Street program, executive producer Craig Thompson said his team were able to film and produce immersive virtual tours of many Waterloo Region sightseeing experiences including tubing at Chicopee Ski & Summer Resort, a horse and buggy ride through Mennonite country and a ride through downtown Waterloo and downtown City of Kitchener with Stroll Walking Tours.

“We’re a company that travels all over the world to shoot documentaries and we’re basically stuck here in the region during the pandemic to test new technology,” Thompson said. “We got a grant from Digital Main Street to partner with Waterloo Region Tourism with a new high-end cinema camera that we bought in China. It is a 360 degree 8K cinema camera.

“It’s a fun toy, and basically, if you can imagine the gaming industry, we’re taking people into the world of virtual exploration. When you are in a game, you can move around and explore your world. Well, we do it with real world tourism experiences.

As virtual tourists embark on the tours filmed by the Ballinran team, Thompson said they will have the option of using their mouse and keyboard, smart device or virtual reality headset to look around their surroundings. virtual environment and get a feel for what the real experience might be. be like.

“You walk with the camera in the virtual travel experience and you can move your head 360 degrees, up and down, sideways, backwards. You can’t control the pace of the walk, but you can be there to experience it, look around and feel what it’s like to be on a Mennonite buggy, for example, or to go down the tube. Chicopee, ”said Thompson.

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“It’s a virtual experience and it’s the first step. The next step is to make the virtual experience interactive. So if you see a store or something on the street, you can click on it and find out more about that particular item.

A screenshot of a virtual tour in a Mennonite horse drawn wagon in the Region of Waterloo.  Submitted photo
A screenshot of a virtual tour in a Mennonite horse drawn wagon in the Region of Waterloo. Submitted photo

Although virtual tours do not yet allow viewers to travel on their own, this will ultimately be a goal of the project as it continues to develop, giving virtual tourists the freedom to explore as much or as little as possible. ‘they wish.

“It is not meant to replace actual in-person experience. This is a marketing extension of the tourist destination, ”said Thompson. “It’s ideal for a destination. For example, a museum may want to choose a portion of its exhibit so that people experience the museum before coming to see it in person. It could also work for an art gallery or even restaurant, where you learn the menu and you are in the kitchen with the chef.

While this type of virtual tourism is ideal for people looking to explore Waterloo Region as travel is limited during COVID-19, Thompson said the project would survive the pandemic as a marketing tool meant to help potential visitors to decide how they would like to spend their time in the area.

While Thompson hopes this type of virtual tourism will be adopted by other agencies in the region and beyond, he said the 360 ​​cinema camera can also be useful as a way to share local culture, attractions and destinations. with people from all over the world, regardless of whether they plan to visit or not. The technology could also be used in business to create virtual experiences for employees working remotely, for example.

Videos of the virtual tour are available on the Explore Waterloo website and on the Ballinran Entertainment YouTube page.

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