Rethink Communications asked for AC+A’s help with their #NoTankers campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the increase in oil tanker traffic through Vancouver’s ecologically sensitive Burrard Inlet.

Rethink planned to modify a pair of standard tourist binoculars (the kind you see at Niagara Falls or the Empire State Building) using Oculus Rift 3D technology so that when people looked out at the coastline, they’d “see” a catastrophic oil spill, complete with flames, smoke, and destruction.

They had just six weeks to pull it off.

Oculus Rift Oil Spill

AC+A’s Solutions

AC+A brought aboard their colleagues at Factory 1 Studios, a local art house run by Ladislav Konopa, a long-time colleague of Adrian’s and one of the leading real-time 3D environmental artists in the game industry. Together they began to tackle some of the project‘s specific technical challenges, such as re-creating the beach and the water (using Google Earth as a guide), first in 2D and then in 3D – right down to the texture of the sand and the sunlight glittering on the waves.

The team custom-designed GUI and animation effects to take advantage of the Oculus Rift hardware. They created oily water, smoke, and flames (using real footage from actual oil spills), and got the whole scene to move realistically when the user rotated the tourist binoculars.

With just two days till launch, the team did a meticulous test run on the site to make sure everything was running smoothly.


Launch day was November 12, 2014, and it was a success all around. The device was deployed with news reporters standing by and a camera drone hovering overhead. Passersby, intrigued by the #NoTankers hashtag on display, began to step up for a look – the first person to see the “catastrophe” actually swore loudly and did a double-take.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson took time out from his re-election campaign to stop by and check out the experience. Huffington Post and TechRepubic, among others, covered the event, and the #NoTankers hashtag trended on Twitter.

Check out our blog post for additional information about the project, technical challenges, and the event itself.

Oculus Rift Oil Spill
Oculus Rift Oil Spill
Oculus Rift Oil Spill