Bringing Virtual Reality into the Classroom
By Kim Tran
In a room with fancy computers and Oculus VR headsets, some Marin high school students recently participated in a month-long internship to learn to make 360 videos. With creativity guiding them through the process of filmmaking, these students produced videos that spoke to their interests.
This internship focused on teaching the basics of 360 video production skills such as filming and editing. The first few weeks served as an introduction to the world of Virtual Reality (VR). Media Producer and Instructor Alejandro Palacios, who taught the class, described virtual reality as “a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction.”
Compared to traditional filmmaking, 360 video production encompasses the entire scene. This makes 360 videos advantageous because the field of view is wider. To fully utilize 360 videos and create the experience for the viewer, the director has to plan strategically so that any unwanted items are off screen.
Drake High School junior Emily Cerutti took the 360 video class to experiment with a new form of filmmaking.
“I wanted to do an internship on 360 video production to learn more about the different types of film,” Cerutti wrote. “I also wanted to learn more about different cameras and programs used to create 360 video. I had experienced virtual reality before, but it was computer programmed; therefore, it was very interesting to learn about real life video in 360.”
After a week of experimenting with a 360 camera and editing on Adobe Premiere, all the skills learned from the previous weeks were used to create a 360 video. Students created videos on topics they were interested in with the remaining weeks left. This resulted in weeks of planning storyboards, finding locations for filming, and hours of editing.
“My video was about music and the effects music has on individuals and communities,” Cerutti explained. “For interviews, I used traditional filmmaking; however, for scenes including multiple people or fast action I used 360 video. The film took longer to edit than film, which was challenging since I enjoy filming rather than editing. However, the editing process made me realize how time consuming editing 360 videos is since I had to go through many programs to create my final product.”
Media literacy is defined as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media,” according to the themedialiteracyproject.com. When asked if schools should have more classes like this at school, Palacios agreed that it is necessary.
“Absolutely, media literacy is as necessary for today's classroom as much as any traditional skill,” Palacios said. “Giving these tools to students can certainly enhance their learning process and improve the way they communicate. It moves the student from a passive position to the role of creator, allowing them to present information with a wider perspective.”
At Novato High, there is not a 360 video class at school, yet MSA Digital Arts 2 through 4 experiments with animated VR. Compared to 360 videos (cinematic VR), animated VR uses modeling and digital effects to create an environment. For example, a student can build a wall, ceiling and put in their art to simulate the environment of a gallery.
Freshman Isabella Cavallero is a student in the MSA class and said that it gave her an avenue to express herself. She also explained that working with digital art helps prepare students for future careers, as well as expanding communication and critical thinking skills. Cavallero states that a 360 video production video class would be nice if enrolling students have experience and proper resources.
“A live action 360 video class would be an interesting new addition to our school if the right resources are provided. Also, added students should most likely have experience in regular live action video production because running a VR system can be complicated to a beginner without experience,” said Cavallero.
There is still the possibility of having a live action of 360 video class. According to MSA Digital Arts teacher Howard Gersh, the school has received a donation of a VR camera. No matter if the school implements the class or not, traditional filmmaking, animated VR and live action VR has been a creative avenue to many students for self expression.
An introduction video to the internship class at Makerspace Studio.