Lake Baikal | VR Documentary - Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water
IDFA DIFF17 featured virtual reality documentary, Lake Baikal: the Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water. Pt 2 will focus on effects of climate change.
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Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water

Immersive  Virtual Reality Documentary, USA, Russia. Approx. duration of experience: 20 minutes (free roam map + embedded media)

Lake Baikal – the oldest, deepest and most voluminous body of fresh water on Earth, contains 20% of the planet’s freshwater or as much as all of the North American Great Lakes combined.


Directors Michael Owen and Georgy Molodtsov will create an immersive media experience that’s both emotionally inspiring and scientifically accurate to introduce the wonder of this freshwater ocean to global audiences while emphasizing the need to safeguard freshwater resources everywhere.


Our goal is to create and bring to global audiences a virtual 3D model of Lake Baikal that shows the contours beneath the water’s surface and topography of the terrain around the lake.

(Hold your phone up and move around to see the 360° image)

“Lake Baikal VR” will create a virtual landscape that viewers can fly above and also explore beneath the water’s surface. They will also interact with 2D and 360° narrative elements as well as data visualizations embedded in the virtual model.


Exploring the 3D model viewers will discover media sequences that provide an overview of Lake Baikal, its history, geography and biology, including the complex food web with electron microscope images of single-cell diatoms and other organisms unique to the lake.

“The highest levels of extinction are in freshwater. For that reason Baikal deserves our attention.”
E.O. Wilson


360° Production
We will shoot VR scenes of Lake Baikal in summer. We are planning for 7 days of VR photography over a 10-day period. The shoot will employ multiple VR camera systems, some with specially designed rigs for underwater, time-lapse, aerial and small boat drone photography. Some VR camera systems will be designed and used for the first time on this project. We will attempt to position a remotely controlled VR camera rig among nerpa seals. Other scenes will include a shaman, fishermen on their boats, underwater scenes of indigenous sponge that looks like a tropical marine sponge, scientists collecting specimens on the water and studying them at the Russian Academy of Science’s Limnological Institute’s research Station.


We also want to establish a standard for visualizing information in immersive media.


We will create a 3D model of Lake Baikal to demonstrate its enormous depth and volume, using bathymetric data acquired through a 1999/2000 survey of the lake. Then we’ll use 3D 360° animation to position the model on a map of the earth.


We will design text and graphics that will be spatially integrated into the 3D 360° landscapes. These graphics will help explain phenomena such as the aquatic ecosystem that’s responsible for the water of Lake Baikal’s high transparency and apparent purity.

Nerpa and remote controlled boat


This film will juxtapose scenes of the idealized Lake Baikal — of pure water and towering mountains with the reality one of Earth’s most stunning ecosystems is now marred by algae blooms caused by human waste and global warming.


The VR film’s viewers will be on Lake Baikal in contrasting seasons, standing on the frozen surface of the lake in winter, diving beneath its crystal clear waters, out on a boat with fishermen and collecting water samples with scientists in summer. Viewers will then be shocked by their surface-skimming drone’s eye view of the extensive algae bloom turning the lake surface green.  They’ll learn that similar processes can happen in their neighborhood lake.


An aquatic biologist will explain to us what is happening and what actions can be taken to mitigate the situation. Biology students from around the world will be shown sampling the lake’s water. She will ask if we know where our tap water comes from. And, if we know, is our freshwater resource sustainable and able to keep up with demand in the future? What can we do to protect it? Will scientists be able to prevent Baikal from sharing the fate of so many other lakes?


The ambient sound of Lake Baikal will be an important element of the immersive 360° spatial soundscape of the VR experience.


We plan to work with the Buryat musician Namgar Lhasaranova to create the title and other incidental music for the VR project.



Lake Baikal has been the subject of many films and documentaries but never have the effects of climate change on such a large body of freshwater been explored. This is also the first attempt to tell a story about the lake using 3D 360° video, truly the best medium for such a mysterious, awe-inspiring landscape. We will combine the immersive, emotional experience of VR with traditional documentary storytelling.We produced a 7:20-minute selection of scenes of Lake Baikal in winter filmed in March 2016. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) selected the project for their Crossmedia pitch sessions. The 2016 Dubai International  Film Festival selected the work for their DIFFerent Reality section in December 2016. Since the promo premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival, the video has taken a life of its own, including being the winner of Best Full Dome Film at the 16th Baikal International Festival “People and Environment”. As you can see below, Lake Baikal continues to be shared at various festivals around the world.


When immersed in our film, we’ve seen viewers literally shiver with cold as they watch bathers a few feet away, stepping calmly beneath the immense icy surface of the lake for a quick dip. We’ve seen them fully engaged as they find themselves in a magnificent Buddhist temple full of devoutly chanting monks. It is a different level of experience. When global warming and pollution threaten 20% of the fresh water on our planet it isn’t a just a Russian conservation problem, it’s part of a looming crisis for all humanity.


Production Schedule

Winter VR photography – completed

Summer Photography – June -July 2018

3D animated graphics development –May-August 2018

Original Music / Sound Design – March-October 2018

VR Editing – October-November 2018

Spatial Sound Mix – November 2018

Release –November 2018


The production is budget is available on request.


VR Platforms
Cardboard, Gear VR, Oculus Rift & GO, HTC Vive, Daydream and other VR platforms that may be available at the time of release.


Work Sample
The 7:20 360° 3D program of winter scenes filmed in March 2016 is available on request.

VR Screening Dubai


Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water is a production of MediaCombo in association with Prosense and VRability.


MediaCombo is a New York based, award-winning multimedia design and production firm. We create websites, mobile apps, video programs and now virtual reality.


We believe digital tools can be used to tell stories that help people to discover what’s important, to understand the present, to shape their future.


Our clients include The Museum of the City of New York, the International Center of Photography, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Capital Construction Company among other museums and educational institutions.


Prosense is based in St Petersburg with offices in Moscow. VRability is based in Moscow.

Georgy Molodtsov

Georgy Molodtsov
Director, Russia


Georgy Molodtsov is an award-winning film and commercial director, festival programmer and social entrepreneur. Programming director of EMC VR Film Festival and Student VR Lab (Russia), Lead Mentor of Steamer VR Lab  (Israel). Co-founder of VRability social good project. In 2016 received Russia’s Media Manager of the Year Award for promoting VR in educational and social projects.


Born in Yekaterinburg, Russia


MA in Film and Video 2015, School of Communication, American University, USA (Fulbright Fellow).

Studied documentary filmmaking in All-Russian State University of Cinematography (VGIK) in 2003-2008.

Michael Owen
Director, USA


Owen has over 25 years of experience producing documentaries, music videos, TV commercials and programs for digital platforms. Michael has produced work for the U.S. State Department, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, the American Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Modern Art, Museum of the City of New York, Prudential, and Pfizer among many others.


He began his career shooting music videos of The Talking Heads, Television and other bands at CBGBs in the 1970’s. He went on to work with directors such as Peter Sellars, Jim Jarmusch, Lindsay Anderson, Michael Apted, Joel Schumacher and Sam Peckinpah, on a variety of music video and documentary projects.


As a partner in MICA TV in the 1980s – 90’s he produced a series of short video art portraits of the artists Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Laurie Simmons and others. These videos have been broadcast on the BBC and Channel Four in the UK, and exhibited at many museums around the world including the ICA Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Walker Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Technology & Science

The production will employ several specially designed VR camera rigs for the shoot in the summer season.


In addition to time-lapse and aerial photography rigs, Stanislav Kolesnik is developing an underwater camera system and a small remote controlled watercraft that will allow a VR rig to approach areas frequented by aquatic wildlife such as the indigenous freshwater nerpa seals without disturbing them.


The Lake Baikal VR project will be the first time some of these rigs and camera systems are used.

Artem Lysenko
Director of Photography


Artem was born in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 1983. He moved to Saint-Petersburg in 2008 to study documentary photography. He first became involved in VR photography in 2011 and then joined Gigapano (now known as Prosense) in 2012 as a VR specialist to create virtual tours for more than 35 Russian museums.


Artem moved to Moscow when the museum project was completed. He became a partner in Gigapano in 2015. Since then, Artem has been deeply involved in every stage of VR production, from shooting to post-production. The rapid development of the company resulted in the drawing of large investments, an increase in the number of employees, and rebranding as Prosense.

Marianne V. Moore
Science Advisor


Marianne Moore is Frost Professor in Environmental Science & Professor of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She has researched biodiversity and environmental change in Lake Baikal for more than 15 years and is currently collaborating with a team of 15 scientists from the USA and Russia who are exploring how Lake Baikal’s stunning biodiversity may respond to contemporary climate change. Professor Moore cofounded the course, “Lake Baikal: the Soul of Siberia,” in which students study at Lake Baikal over the summer.

Dr. Daria Bedulina

Dr. Daria Bedulina
Aquatic Biologist


Post doctoral researcher – Institute of Biology of Irkutsk State University and Baikal native, Dr. Daria Bedulina, will narrate some of the video segments and explain the science of the water, the environmental threats and the simple steps that can be taken to reverse troubling trends.

Peter Klebnikov


Journalist and author Peter Klebnikov works on Russia programs for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). With his colleagues, he played a central role in Russia’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, a decision that brought the agreement into force. Prior to that, Peter worked in Russia as director of the New York University foundation on press freedom and served as Chief Editor of We, the groundbreaking newspaper published in Washington and Moscow.

Google Expeditions

Google Education made possible much of development work on Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water.


Google Education hired MediaCombo to produce three Expeditions about Russia. The Expedition to Lake Baikal in Siberia gave us the opportunity to shoot additional scenes that are now part of our work in progress.


An Expedition is a virtual school trip that consists of about eight 3D 360° spherical images of different places around the world. Destinations include national parks, museums, university campuses as well as historic sites and homes.


Expeditions are experienced using a mobile app. The app has two modes: Leader / Teacher and Explorer / Student.


The Explorer mode runs on a smart phone device that works with a cardboard or Viewmaster headsets. Explorers get to experience and immersive 360° VR views of the expedition location.


The leader or teacher mode runs on a tablet. The teacher controls what the class is viewing and can monitor where the students are looking in each 360° scene. S/he can also call up text information about points of interest within each scene.


The three MediaCombo produced Expeditions Lake Baikal, The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics and Russia Today can be viewed with the Google Explorer app.


The Explorer app is free and available on the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android devices.


IDFA Crossmedia Forum

MediaCombo is pleased to announce that Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water will be presented in the IDFA Crossmedia Forum part of the 24th edition of the IDFA Forum, which takes place in Amsterdam from November 21-23, 2016.

Michael Owen and Georgy Molodtsov will be attending IDFA to present the Lake Baikal project at the Round Table pitch sessions.



Dubai International Film Festival

The world premiere of Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water, Episode 1: Winter Spirit will be presented as an Official Selection at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), which will take place from December 7-14, 2016. It will be a part of the line-up for a DIFFerent Reality.

Both Michael Owen and Georgy Molodtsov will be attending and speak at the festival.



Tampere Film Festival

MediaCombo is pleased to announce that Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water has been selected by the 2017 Tampere Film Festival, which will take place from March 8th-12th in Finland. It will be part of the line-up for the DDD60: VR Cinema section.



Marché du Film

Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water was shown in Cannes NEXT, at the Marché du Film. Programming ran from May 17-26 2017. For 5 days, NEXT became the innovation hub of the Marché du Film with a strong focus placed on Virtual Reality. Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water was presented by the Russian Creative VR Society on Sunday, May 21.


Sheffield Doc Fest

Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water will be presented at the Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Virtual Reality Market. In the 2017 program, attendees will step into new worlds where immersion and interaction take viewers to the heart of the story. The festival runs from June 9 – 14 2017.


Michael Owen will be attending to present the Lake Baikal project.



Moscow International Film Festival

Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water has been selected as 1 of 40 VR movies to be included in the 39th Moscow International Film Festival, Russian VR Seasons. Programming runs from June 22nd – 29th.



Baikal International Film Festival

Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water was the winner of the Fulldome Award at the 16th Baikal International Film Festival of Documentary and Popular-Science Films presented at Irkutsk Planetarium from October 5 – 9, 2017. This was the first screening of the Baikal VR project in a fulldome theater setting.



Haifa International Film Festival

Lake Baikal: The Science and Spirituality of Extreme Water is selected to be presented at the 33rd Haifa International Film Festival. The festival runs from October 8 – 10, 2017.


European Film Market 

Lake Baikal will be presented at EFM, the European Film Market on February 15-23 2018. This event is considered the business epicenter of the renowned Berlinale International Film Festival. The film is to be shown at the new screening venue “VR Cinema at Marriot” in which the venue has partnered with INVR to provide the ideal infrastructure to present VR content.


Lichter Filmfest Frankfurt International 

Lake Baikal: Winter Spirit is selected as one of the five finalists for the Lichter VR Storytelling Competition. The film, selected from more than 70 entries will be presented with the other finale films in special cinema format for the duration of the festival, the award ceremony in which one film will take home the Lichter VR Award will be on Thursday, April 5th.


Russian VR Seasons

Since being selected in 2017 as a VR Project featured in Russian VR Seasons, Lake Baikal continues to be presented at film festivals around the world. The initiative unites filmmakers, artists, producers and other creative professionals occupied with VR projects. Over the past year the video has been presented at Russian Film Week in London, Minsk International Film Festival (MIFF) “Listapad” in Belarus, 2ANNAS Riga International Film Festival, Festiwal Filmów Rosyjskich Sputnik in Warsaw, Ural Open Festival of Russian Cinema, and more to come.


Vienna Shorts 

We’re happy to share that Lake Baikal: Winter Spirit has been nominated for the VR The World 2018 category at the 15th Annual Vienna Shorts Festival! Our production will be one of 8 works from 7 countries selected for the international virtual reality & 360 film competition. Judges selected works they found captivating, exploring the possibilities of VR “that challenge our most basic perceptions and notions of imagery, narrative art, participation, and voyeurism.”


2º Barcelona 360 Virtual Reality Fest

Lake Baikal will show this April at Spain’s first cinema festival of VR; 2nd Barcelona 360 Virtual Reality Fest. The festival will be held at Barcelona’s Museum of Design and organized by Paramotion Films and Mecal Association.


“Google Expeditions, a programme that provides children with virtual reality school trips, have filmed their latest segment at Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.”

The Location Guide, July 2016


“The immersive piece about the earth’s most ancient and deepest lake, Lake Baikal in Siberia, is touted as making audiences shiver with cold, which could provide welcome relief to Dubai audiences subjected to sweltering heat for most of the year.”

Variety, December 2016

“The film explores the unique ecosystem, icy winter landscape and strong spiritual traditions that surround the earth’s most ancient and deepest lake”

Gulf News, November 2016


Winter Production March 2016


Georgy Molodtsov

Michael Owen


Producer US  

Michael Owen


Producer RU

Ksenia Adamovitch


Producer RU 

Georgy Molodtsov


Director of Photography

Artem Lysenko


Assistant Camera

Sergey Baskoev


Production Manager

Zhenya Molodtsova

Location Consultants:  

Arkady Kalikhman

Andrei Suknev


Transport & Construction       

Andrey Chermoshkin

Denis Ivancha


Post-Production Supervisor 

Darya Snigur


Editor (stitcher) 

Iya Bereza


Editorial Assistant

Anna Bogolyubova


Technical Director

Stanislav Kolesnik


Color Grading

Serafilm Salnikov


360° Spatial Sound Design

Albert Leusink

Tumble + Yaw


NY Editorial Assistant

Sharanika Akter

Special Thanks                      

Ivolginsky Datsan

Baikalsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve

Vasily I. Sutula, Director

Bolshoye Goloustnoye Orthodox Church

Dr. Marianne Moore

Peter Klebnikov