New virtual reality experience for ‘Survivor’ fans at click of a button

OUTLAST: Nico Panagio once again hosts ‘Survivor South Africa’, which was filmed in the Philippines. The sixth season begins today on M-Net at 7pm Picture: BARBARA HOLLANDS
OUTLAST: Nico Panagio once again hosts ‘Survivor South Africa’, which was filmed in the Philippines. The sixth season begins today on M-Net at 7pm Picture: BARBARA HOLLANDS
Fans of Survivor South Africa will now be able to “visit” their favourite team’s camp at the click of a button, thanks to the introduction of a virtual reality component on the show’s website which will enable viewers to navigate the living quarters of the new Philippines season.

The show begins on M-Net tonight and is the first time South African castaways spent 39 days playing the game. Previous seasons lasted 27 days. Executive producer Handrie Basson said the extended season was to allow contestants “to get into their own heads”.

“Thirty-nine days allowed us to do the best possible job to enhance the content and for contestants to live their experience and tell it back to us.”

Host Nico Panagio said 27 days was too short to get to know the players. “As the host you live in the show and see the journeys people go on and 39 days is perfect to see their transformations take place.”

At the show’s outdoor media launch at Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo last week, the press were given a sneak preview of most of the first episode in which 18 castaways, including former East Londoner Tom Swartz, 41, hit the ground running after being dropped off at the beautiful tropical islands.

“They came packing,” said Panagio, who was at the launch beneath the stars. “They were on fire and started playing from the get-go and we didn’t meddle with what they decided.”

Sure to spark controversy is the beheading of a snake who slithered into the campsite and was promptly killed by a contestant. “It was a dangerous snake and they were right doing that,” said Basson.

Contestants spend a couple of days in “holding”, where they receive a full debrief of the location they are about to enter and its dangers, he explained.

Castaways of different ages – the youngest, Katinka Oosthuizen, is just 19 and the oldest, Neil Voller, is 55 – come from diverse backgrounds.

From a Mensa member to an undercover pastor and a social media influencer, the castaways begin to form strategic alliances from day one, and new technology advancements helps the viewer feel closer to the action.

“This season what made a big difference was drone technology, which made a huge impact on the way we told the stories,” said Basson, who heads up Afrokaans Film & Television.

“You can give the viewer the geographical perspective and we have an aerial view of every challenge. In previous episodes we had to rely on a helicopter, which was an enormous expense, but now we could use the drone every day. It puts the viewer at the centre of the action, because we could film the castaway’s facial expressions during the challenges.”

A virtual reality team was also on board, giving viewers a sharper take on the castaways’ world in-between episodes.

“Virtual reality will put viewers on the island,” said Basson.

Another stand-out aspect of the new season is the dramatic tribal council setting which was built to float on the water to resemble a temple complete with an imposing tiger statue built by the South African production team and the dragon Gaia, which took a month to build.

l Survivor SA Philippines starts on M-Net at 7pm tonight — barbarah@dispatch.co.za

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