19

Wednesday, Jun 19, 2019

Overcast, 71 °F

compassLogo
Pictured is the promotional poster for “Re: Disappearing,” the Immersive Media Initiative’s first 360-degree narrative story, which has been selected to be screened at three film festivals.

Pictured is the promotional poster for “Re: Disappearing,” the Immersive Media Initiative’s first 360-degree narrative story, which has been selected to be screened at three film festivals.

Graphic courtesy of: Immersive Media Initiative

Featured Stories


IMI’s first 360-degree narrative story selected for film festivals on four continents

GRID Lab sees a flurry of activity over the summer


Ohio University’s Immersive Media Initiative (IMI) has just begun to dip its toe into the world of virtual and augmented realities, but it’s already making a big splash on campus and around the world.

After spending nearly a year shooting and editing the IMI’s first 360-degree narrative story, OHIO faculty and students involved in the initiative are celebrating the acceptance of their work into three film festivals and its upcoming screenings at venues spanning four continents.

“It’s so exciting,” Eric Williams, IMI co-founder and associate professor in OHIO’s School of Media Arts and Studies, said. “I think the best part about being accepted into these festivals is now the students’ work gets to be seen all over the world.”

The IMI – housed within the Scripps College of Communication’s Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab – spent last summer shooting and last fall semester in post-production on “Re: Disappearing.” The nine-minute virtual reality experience tells the story of a teenage girl struggling with the impending divorce of her parents. Filmed amongst a tree-top zipline course, the 360-degree story immerses the audience in the experience, allowing the viewers to see and hear everything the characters within each scene are seeing and hearing.

After months of waiting, members of the IMI were recently informed that “Re: Disappearing” had been accepted into three film festivals – two domestic and one international.

Pictured is the inaugural Immersive Media Initiative production team.

The inaugural Immersive Media Initiative production team includes: (first row, from left) Eric Williams; (second row, from left) Taylor Rohrig, Aaron Dimanna, Abbie Doyle and John Bowditch; (back row, from left) Michael France, Josh Antonuccio, Iggy Cossman, Andrew Beall, Andrea Swart, Austin Drozin and John Tauriello.

The 360-degree narrative story debuted at the Georgetown University Film Festival in April in the event’s first-ever virtual reality exhibition. “Re: Disappearing” was one of only five 360-degree films selected for the festival, which is dedicated to showcasing excellence in short form cinema amongst student and emerging professional filmmakers. 

This coming week, “Re: Disappearing” heads to the West Coast where it will be screened at the Seattle Transmedia and Independent Film Festival. The event, scheduled for July 29-31, is designed to exhibit independent, underground, experimental and zero-budget films and transmedia projects while also fostering cultural exchange and educational opportunities. The IMI’s film will be featured in the festival’s Emerging Technology category.

“The Seattle Transmedia and Independent Film Festival is tapping into the cutting-edge artists who are doing this sort of work right now,” Williams explained, noting the IMI’s excitement about being accepted into this particular venue. “Our work will be seen by hundreds of people who are exploring not only 360 video but interactive storytelling.” 

“Re: Disappearing” is also going international, having been one of 148 short and long films accepted into the Underground FilmFest. Showcasing independent films and filmmakers from around the world, the Underground FilmFest kicks off this month in Munich, Germany, and runs through next spring at venues in the U.K., Vietnam, the Republic of Cameroon, Thailand and the United States.

According to a confirmation letter festival organizers sent to the IMI, in addition to being selected for this international film festival, “Re: Disappearing” was selected to participate in one of the event’s companion pieces – the Underground Experimental Film Showcase. Held in conjunction with the festival, the showcase is held in various museums in the host cities and is dedicated solely to 360-degree storytelling, allowing viewers to experience these films as they would a traditional museum exhibit. So far, the IMI has been notified that “Re: Disappearing” will be screened at the Buchheim Museum and the Museum Lichtspiele Kino, both in Germany.

Josh Antonuccio, an IMI co-founder and a lecturer in the School of Media Arts and Studies, discusses some of the equipment used to create 360-degree video at Ohio University’s GRID Lab.

Josh Antonuccio, an IMI co-founder and a lecturer in the School of Media Arts and Studies, discusses some of the equipment used to create 360-degree video at Ohio University’s GRID Lab.

While members of the IMI haven’t been able to attend the Georgetown and Seattle festivals, they’re hoping to be able to travel to one of the Underground FilmFest’s U.S. destinations. Attending these events will allow IMI members to gauge reaction to their film, experience how others are experimenting with these new modes of storytelling, and network with fellow filmmakers – with the end goal of bringing all of that information back to OHIO’s classrooms.

“That’s the magic of storytelling these days,” Williams said. “Everybody is sharing what they’re doing and learning from each other. It’s really exhilarating.”

A ‘tidal wave’ of activity at the GRID Lab

The news about being accepted into the film festivals comes on the heels of the IMI being awarded $878,000 from Ohio University’s Innovation Strategy program and in the midst of what Williams described as a “tidal wave” of activity for the initiative. 

Virtual reality courses now a reality at OHIO

The IMI kicked off the summer by launching OHIO’s first-ever virtual reality courses. MDIA 4905: Immersive Media Process was offered during the first summer session with MDIA 4906: VR/AR Production occurring during the second session.

“Students have been excited about these classes since we proposed offering them last spring,” said Josh Antonuccio, an IMI co-founder and the instructor for MDIA 4905, noting that 12 students enrolled in both of the classes – two more than initially planned due to the demand.  

Antonuccio said the IMI plans on offering more virtual reality courses next spring semester and that the IMI is working with the Scripps College on the possibility of rolling out an estimated 12-15 virtual and augmented reality courses in the next 18 months.

“We are seeing that there is a huge interest from students about how to produce with this new immersive technology,” Antonuccio said. “They are hungry to be on the cutting edge of communication.” 

GRID Lab immersing itself in new technology

In building the coursework that will educate students on virtual and augmented reality technologies, OHIO’s GRID Lab has spent much of the summer adding new equipment to its state-of-the-art facility. 

Housed on the second floor of Scripps Hall, the GRID Lab has completed the installation of its motion capture studio. The facility provides users the ability to capture in real time the movements of up to six live actors and then to assign avatars to each of those actors. The studio’s green screen then allows the individual filming the scene to select the backdrop setting for that scene.

“So you can image the storytelling possibilities of that,” Williams said, noting that the students enrolled in the summer virtual reality courses are already utilizing this technology.

Eric Williams, an IMI co-founder and associate professor in OHIO’s School of Media Arts and Studies, provides direction inside the GRID Lab’s motion capture studio.

Eric Williams, an IMI co-founder and associate professor in OHIO’s School of Media Arts and Studies, provides direction inside the GRID Lab’s motion capture studio. He is being assisted by student Abbie Doyle and Liu YuTao from Hebei Normal University in China.

Some of the students are also experimenting with the GRID Lab’s audio recording and editing suite, which is in the final stages of development under the direction of Antonnucio. Among the suite’s newest equipment are tetrahedral microphones, which allow for 3D sound. Members of the IMI used these newly-released microphones as well as their video equipment to film Courtney Barnett at last month’s Nelsonville Music Festival. The IMI completed this 360-degree mini concert in partnership with Barnett’s management team. Antonuccio pointed out, “Using 360-degree audio and video to enjoy live music is just starting to catch on, as evidenced by Live Nation’s recent investment in VR capture for their festivals. Imagine seeing your favorite artist live while you are sitting in your living room. We can do that right now. In fact, we already have!”

And while most of the IMI’s work to date has focused on virtual reality where everything the viewer sees is prerecorded or created, the IMI is beginning to delve into augmented reality where technology allows media makers to add digital information into that space. Earlier this month, the IMI received its first HoloLens development kit, headsets manufactured by Microsoft that feature several augmented reality applications. 

Working with and for OHIO and beyond

As members of the IMI explore both the fictional and nonfictional applications of this emerging technology, they are developing partnerships and projects with individuals throughout Ohio University and beyond, creating what John Bowditch referred to as “an ecosystem of education, innovation and research.” Bowditch is the director of the GRID Lab and also a co-founder of the IMI.

While each partnership and project is designed to explore either the academic or industry applications of this new technology, the goal of each remains the same: to create learning experiences for all Ohio University students, paving the way for these students to become technological leaders in their respective fields. 

Building on a medical training project it initiated last fall in partnership with OhioHealth, four members of the IMI, including two OHIO students, were planning a 12-hour shoot this past weekend at Grant Hospital in Columbus. The group partnered with OhioHealth and the hospital’s trauma and operating room doctors to document, via a 360-degree view of the room and 3D sound, actual patient care occurring inside Grant’s trauma bay. The footage being shot will be used to train OHIO medical, nursing and physical therapy students as well as the health system’s staff. 

“The project is designed to acclimatize healthcare professionals to intense situations that occur in their field,” Bowditch explained. 

Other projects IMI faculty and students are or will be involved in include:

  • Working with WOUB Public Media to introduce 360 journalism to the Southeastern Ohio community. Members of the IMI will be creating a repository of 360 stories for this project. 
  • Creating a 360 political documentary based on footage IMI members shot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and Hillary Clinton’s rally in Athens in May.
  • Partnering with OHIO’s School of Art + Design to create an immersive documentary on Æthelred Eldridge, professor emeritus of painting known for the black-and-white murals he painted under the archway outside Seigfred Hall and around the Athens community. 
  • Partnering with Professor Nancy Stevens in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences to reanimate ancient but extinct creatures uncovered through research so that students can visualize the subject matter.

“Activity at the IMI is really ramping up, with plenty more to come,” Williams said. “The IMI is an OHIO initiative. We’re looking to expand, and we’re looking for people who are hungry to push the boundaries of technology, education and managerial styles. Come join us!”

Students work inside Ohio University’s GRID Lab on the second floor of Scripps Hall.

Students work inside Ohio University’s GRID Lab on the second floor of Scripps Hall.