Parliament: The Virtual Experience
A co-production by the Library of Parliament and the National Film Board of Canada.
Creative team: Émilie F. Grenier, David Drury, Dpt. and Stéphane Poirier
| 15 min
Selections and Awards
About the Virtual Experience
Parliament is the heart of Canada’s federal democracy. For more than 100 years, its seat was Centre Block, best recognized by the iconic Peace Tower. Home to the Senate and the House of Commons, the building was the site of debates and decisions that shaped our country. Each year, it welcomed thousands of visitors to discover the significance of the work, people and architecture of the space.
This historic building has now closed its doors for long-term renovations; however, the public can still experience it through innovative immersive technologies. Step inside the doors of Parliament online, in virtual reality or in your classroom, and discover how the work of Canada’s national legislature affects you.
Parliament: The Virtual Experience will transport you through Centre Block’s most iconic spaces: the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament and Peace Tower. Each one offers a new perspective on Parliament—its history, its art and its role in the lives of Canadians, today and in the future.
Parliament: The Virtual Experience is a co-production by the Library of Parliament and the National Film Board of Canada.
Trailer – The Virtual Experience (60s)
Trailer – The Virtual Experience (20s)
Trailer – The Virtual Reality Experience
Parliament: The Virtual Reality Experience (360º video version)
The Virtual Reality Experience
This immersive journey takes you deep into the heart of Parliament, where historic spaces spring to life with magic realism. This groundbreaking VR experience combines photorealism with vivid sound, colour and light.
Also available in 360° video on Oculus, YouTube and Vimeo for mobile-based headsets.
The Online Experience
Democracy is at your fingertips in this richly illustrated experience. Scroll through Parliament and watch as the building emerges around you, its walls filled with voices from Canada’s past. Accessible from any mobile or desktop device.
The Classroom Experience (coming September 2020)
Register for a Virtual Reality Classroom Kit and bring Parliament to your school. With VR gear for students and tools for teachers, this is a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for Canadian students.
The Library of Parliament and the NFB had a distinct vision for Parliament: The Virtual Experience. Working with creative director Émilie F. Grenier, they chose to use VR as their main platform since it offered the best showcase of the building’s iconic architecture. “The team did a great job making their vision realistic within the existing technology,” says Martin Viau, the project’s technology director.
All the visuals and audio assets for the VR version were managed with the Unity game engine, a real-time platform that allows you to create and develop games, cinematic experiences and VR projects. The original “blueprints” for the project came from the Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS), which had captured the complete architecture of Centre Block—save the Peace Tower—through a combination of photogrammetry and 360-degree photography. CIMS used these files to build the models for the VR spaces.
The project team then called Montreal’s Dpt onboard. “They bring strong expertise in VR UX and non-linear web experiences,” Viau says. “And they instinctively understand what makes a good documentary-based narrative.”
Due to the length of Centre Block’s planned renovations, the project had to be viable for many years. “We kept the best quality of all our assets but downgraded some so the experience would run on today’s devices,” Viau explains. “For example, the original scans captured by CIMS were too detailed for our needs, so we created a simplified mesh based on the data to build the Parliament scenes and architecture. But we have all the backups, so if we ever need to upgrade, we can. It’s the same for the sound assets.”
The web version is a responsive experience created in HTML. Grenier had wanted a completely different, stand-alone experience for online users. Inspired by the pop-up books of her youth, the team created an illustrated version of Centre Block.
Centre Block’s iconic spaces
When you strap on VR goggles and begin your journey through Parliament: The Virtual Reality Experience, it’s almost surreal. You are in Parliament’s Centre Block.
The experience takes you through the main areas of the historic Centre Block: the House, the Senate, the Library of Parliament, and the Peace Tower. The project team gave careful thought to the possibilities of the platform. As VR is growing and evolving quickly, they needed to ensure that the project would be relevant throughout the years of the building’s closure.
“My reflex was to choreograph the gaze of the user, to provide an elaborately guided tour of this architectural masterpiece,” creative director Émilie F. Grenier says. The experience lives up to the promise. As you move through the space, sometimes at ground level, sometimes higher up, you feel transported within Centre Block. Using nothing but your eyes, you simply explore your surroundings. It’s blissfully intuitive.
The soundtrack (music, soundscape, narration) is integral to guiding the experience, but it was also important to take some weight off the narrator. “We needed to develop elements to guide the eye,” Grenier says. “That’s where the magical realism comes in. The light serves as a visual guide and adds a layer of poetry to the story.”
The online web version of Parliament: The Virtual Experience is different. Grenier drew inspiration from classic pop-up books and developed the first illustrated version of Centre Block. It’s just as intuitive. As you scroll your way through the story, the walls of Parliament appear around you and magical elements are revealed.
Confederation Hall is a rotunda that serves as the ceremonial entrance to Centre Block. It is richly decorated with symbols of Canada’s provinces and territories. The Virtual Experience begins here, as the walls come alive with animals and plants from across Canada.
House of Commons
The House of Commons is the elected law-making chamber of Parliament. Most bills begin in the House, and Members of Parliament spend much of their time debating and voting. In the Virtual Experience, a group of journalists jostles outside the House to ask parliamentarians questions. Inside the chamber, a chorus of voices rises in debate, highlighting the work of MPs in representing people across the country.
Library of Parliament
Built in the 1870s, the Library is known for its beautiful wooden interior. Today, it supports the work of Parliament with modern and innovative services. In the Virtual Experience, wood carvings of flowers and animals swirl around the Library, emphasizing the art and architecture of Centre Block’s oldest space. Viewers will learn about the fire of 1916, which destroyed the original building, and the resilience of Parliament in its aftermath.
The Senate is Parliament’s independent Upper Chamber. Senators represent the regions of Canada and minority groups, investigate important issues, and draft and scrutinize legislation. The Virtual Experience brings viewers into the Senate Foyer, where they are surrounded by portraits of Canada’s queens and kings. Inside the chamber, a mural builds around them, illustrating the role of senators in giving voice to Canadian communities.
The Peace Tower is a familiar symbol of Canada’s Parliament and a monument to the cause of peace. The Virtual Experience concludes with an illustrated journey through the bells of the tower. Viewers are invited to reflect on the people who work together for Canadian democracy—and what their own role will be.
The Virtual Reality Experience
The Online Experience (mobile & desktop)
A production by
Library of Parliament
National Film Board of Canada
Émilie F. Grenier
An experience built by
Music and Sound Design
3D Modelling (VR)
Carleton Immersive Media Studio
Anouk Pennel and Leon Lo (Feed)
Nicolas S. Roy
Technology Direction (VR)
3D Artists (VR)
Carleton Immersive Media Studio (VR)
Storyboards and Concept Art (VR)
Set Director (Narration Recording)
Maxime Giroux Casting Inc.
Choirmaster and Arranger
Library of Parliament
Heather Lank, Parliamentary Librarian
The National Film Board of Canada
Executive Director, Institutional Program
Senior Production Coordinator
Senior Administrative Coordinator
Technical Coordinator (Post Production)
Narration Recording and Premix
Social Media Strategist
Emilie Nguyen Ngoc
Head, Media Relations
The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C., Speaker of the Senate
The Honourable Anthony Rota, P.C., M.P., Speaker of the House of Commons
The Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P., Speaker of the House of Commons
Archival audio presented courtesy of
Senate of Canada
House of Commons of Canada
© 2020 Library of Parliament and National Film Board of Canada
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won over 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.
About Library of Parliament
The Library of Parliament is the Parliament of Canada’s knowledge centre. It is a non-partisan and reliable source of information, providing news, reference and analysis services to the parliamentary community. The Library also manages and preserves access to its resources and collections, and compiles and disseminates historical information about Parliament and parliamentarians. In addition, the Library oversees the Parliamentary Poet Laureate program and, through its public education programs, helps Canadians learn about their Parliament.