Images + Video + Audio Render Immersive 360° View of World's Largest Cave

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The wind is roaring and howling at the entrance of a black hole into which you are about to descend. As you repel down into the cave, the opening of light disappears in the distance. Suddenly you’re at the end of your rope standing in pitch darkness, only able to see the 20-30 feet in front of you illuminated by your headlamp. It’s an experience few can have, but Dell helped make it possible for you to get a 360 degree view inside the world’s largest cave.

Martin Edström works on a Dell laptop inside Son Doong Cave

Stitching together more than 700 gigabytes of data – images, video and audio – photographer Martin Edström has created an archive of Son Doong. Discovered in 2009, National Geographic describes it as having “enormous chambers that can comfortably fit a 747 airplane or an entire New York City block full of 40-story buildings.”

“There are actually wispy clouds up near the ceiling,” Mark Jenkins wrote when he was part of the first expedition to make it completely through the cave in 2011.

Airplanes, 40-story buildings and clouds all help give us some sense of the size, but as I listen to the sounds of the cave while writing this post, I really understand what Edström means when he talks about the importance of sound to the type of interactive reportage he is spearheading in the field of journalism. Technology plays a big part in putting us in the middle of the story.

“When I work with the 360 degree photography, we have to render the images to be able to see how they turn out,” Edström says. “Compared to taking a still image or a video, we can’t just look in the camera on the display to see what we got. We have to sit down by a computer, and render the image to actually see it.”

 An expedition crew inside Son Doong cave watch as  Martin Edström and an assistant render images on their Dell laptops

On the Son Doong expedition, Edström needed systems that could serve as mobile powerhouses like our Precision M3800, as well as tough travelers like the Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme. At the end of each day’s shooting, the team needed to sit down and render their work to see if they had captured what they needed.

“Just a few years ago, this would have been impossible,” said Edström. “The rendering times to put together these high resolution 360 degree images would have taken forever.”

You can hear more from him on that, as well as how the trip came together, difficulties overcome and highlights of this expedition in our three-part video interview:

And be sure to block off some time on your calendar to go virtually explore the cave yourself. I thought I’d made it all the way through, but just discovered I’m only about half way. So, I’ll end this post and get back into Son Doong where one of the dolines (my new word for the day) is almost as wide as the roof of my home state’s Superdome!

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