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Skills learned by staff will be employed for summer classes catered to Rockwood youth

The staff at MetroEast Community Media spent a week learning how to create 360 degree immersive films that are viewed in virtual reality, so they can pass on that knowledge this summer to students in Rockwood.

The VR Immersive Training was put on by Alton Glass, a film director and immersive storyteller from Los Angeles, throughout the week of March 26.

"Everyone here is learning how to think in a 3D realm," Glass said.

Throughout the week the group created, shot and edited three short videos that highlighted the strengths of producing for virtual reality. One of the videos had the camera surrounded by people who would step forward and share their inspirations. The filmmakers used audio cues and lights to help direct the viewer where to look. The second video was a parody cooking show, while the third was a tour of MetroEast's new multimedia conference room on a set made to look like an airline.

Shooting in 360 degrees leads to a whole new set of headaches for filmmakers, especially when they aren't used to the medium. Some of challenges they face is being aware of the height of the camera, avoiding close up shots because the special cameras distort images if they get too close, and keeping non-actors off the set because everything is in frame.

"You really have to consider the viewer's experience," said Ivana Horvat, a digital media producer with MetroEast.

The best projects for VR include large, grand environments that the viewers want to explore. Nature documentaries are a good example, as you could place the audience in the middle of the Grand Canyon. The medium is also being used for educational purposes.

"Virtual reality allows you to connect to things in a different way," Horvat said. "There are so many possibilities to be discovered in VR."

The week of training for MetroEast employees will eventually be used this summer as they host free virtual reality and immersive storytelling classes in Rockwood.

"Our VR classes are a perfect bridge between STEAM and storytelling," said Martin Jones, CEO of MetroEast. "The kids can gain job skills and put together an impressive portfolio."

The week and future classes was made possible thanks to a $25,000 grant from V&B Philanthropy.

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