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Flying Above An Active Volcano With Pioneering Russian Filmmakers

An image of the Plosky Tolbachik volcano eruption in Russia's Far East.
An image of the Plosky Tolbachik volcano eruption in Russia's Far East.
A Russian aerial imaging and virtual-tours group has posted 360-degree aerial video from above Russia's active Plosky Tolbachik volcano that you must see to believe.

The Tolbachik cluster, on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East, had been dormant for around four decades before lava began flowing from two fissures on that 3,000-meter peak in late November.

Seismologists and other scientists from around the world have been flocking there ever since, with lava continuing to flow and pool.

The volcanic activity has produced lots of great images, including those that inspired our own photo gallery a few weeks back.

But nothing that I've seen compares to this two-minute, interactive video -- known as a VR (virtual reality) movie -- from AirPano that lets you survey the scene any way you like from a helicopter high above Tolbachik. (Sorry, we can't embed it without purchasing it from AirPano.)

Here's an interactive photo gallery of the same event that's impressive in its own right:

RFE/RL has featured the work of AirPano before, in connection with aerial photographs the company collected of a political demonstration in Moscow in December 2011 with the use of a drone.

The company explains on its website (in great detail) that its path to the 360 video market began in 2011, after its founders were impressed by a video of devastation after the Haiti earthquake of 2010 that allowed viewers to "virtually visit the place of the tragedy."

AirPano says its people were "shocked" at the price of equipment needed to replicate such a video. So they set out to essentially improvise their own process and, after a series of hurdles that AirPano explains, have achieved a dramatic level of success.

You can view any of around 60 360-degree renderings of notable locations around the world on their website. (Don't miss Oleg Gaponyuk's "Flight to Stratosphere," which if you look "up" includes the moment when the balloon lifting the probe bursts.)

One video taken in Rio de Janeiro, featuring AirPano's Oleg Gaponyuk, provides a very brief demonstration of the filming process from a helicopter, and it's made to look a lot less high-tech than you'd imagine:

-- Andy Heil

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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