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While hard at working on several upcoming Avatar films, director James Cameron is still pushing for a deeper understanding of Earth's underwater environment. National Geographic announced today that he'll be executive producing a new series for the network, OceanXplorers, which will follow a team of experts and scientists as they investigate the deep with advanced technology. The six-episode series will begin filming this month, and will be produced together with the BBC Studios Natural History Unit (which was behind documentaries like Blue Planet 2) and OceanX Media.
Of course, this isn't the first time Cameron has been involved with ocean exploration. He produced several Titanic-related documentaries after the release of that film, as well as high-profile films like Aliens of the Deep, an investigation of the unique creatures living around the Mid-Ocean Ridge. And let's not forget that Cameron also traveled to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2012, an experience that he captured for the documentary Deepsea Challenge 3D. (As we said at the time, it was clear he made that trip seven miles below sea level just because he felt like it.)
While Cameron himself won't be traveling with the OceanXplorers crew, the series will feature a multi-talented team including marine biologist Asha de Vos, survival expert Aldo Kane, offshore ecologist Zoleka Filander and former NASA engineer Eric Stackpole, who will control the underwater robots and drones. National Geographic says they'll be traveling on "the most advanced combined exploration and media vessel every built." The show will begin filming in the West Indies, where the team will chart the behavior of endangered hammerhead sharks. Additionally, OceanXplorers, will investigate the waters outside the Azores, the Dominican Republic as well as in the Arctic. The network plans to bring the show to 172 countries in 43 languages.
Described as a cross-platform event, OceanXplorers has the potential to be more than just another big-budget documentary for National Geographic. I'm just hoping the crew manages to capture some 360-degree video for viewing in VR headsets, like the recent short (above) by the non-profit Hydrous. As of 2017, Cameron wasn't too impressed with the state of consumer virtual reality, but things have changed dramatically since then. The Oculus Quest 2 has made VR cheaper and easier to use, and most headsets worth buying offer far sharper resolutions than first-gen models. If Nat Geo truly wants to create a cross-platform experience, this is the perfect moment to invest in immersive video.