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Sports Illustrated tackles VR with first-person documentary ‘Capturing Everest’

Sports Illustrated promises to capture “the first complete ascent of Everest in VR” as part of its upcoming virtual reality miniseries Capturing Everest, giving VR enthusiasts an opportunity to experience the treacherous climb from a first-person perspective.

Filmed entirely with 360-degree video, Capturing Everest documents a recent two-month ascent undertaken by a team of four expert mountain climbers. The production will premiere in early 2017.

Related: Climb a towering mountain in virtual reality with ‘Everest VR’ for HTC Vive

Virtual reality applications have long attempted to simulate the experience of mountain climbing, and many Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR games feature first-person climbing as a primary gameplay mechanic. While applications like Everest VR simulate the trek using constructed 3D environments, however, Sports Illustrated’s documentary will feature live video throughout, upping the realism significantly.

“Summiting Everest has captivated the imagination like few other athletic feats,” said Sports Illustrated’s editorial director Chris Stone. “Capturing an ascent in VR makes the unattainable seem attainable while at the same time reinforcing the mythology of Everest. This production is both extraordinarily real and unreal all at once. We are thrilled to bring the viewer along for the odyssey.”

Sports Illustrated notes that the production is the first of its kind to cover a complete Mount Everest ascent from start to finish. Capturing Everest is the latest documentary to debut as part of Sports Illustrated’s recently launched Life VR platform, and footage will also be available for viewing at the publication’s website.

“Attacking the world’s highest summit seemed like the perfect place to go with our new VR initiative,” Life VR managing editor Mia Tramz explains, “and by partnering with Endemol Shine and adding in the world-class storytellers from Sports Illustrated, I think we have something truly special and unique to offer our audience. We can’t wait to bring viewers along for this once-in-a-lifetime journey. This is exactly the type of experience Life VR was created for.”