Who Is Teaching Cinematic VR in Seattle?

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UW’s new home to CoMotion Labs. Conveniently located next to all the trail mix you could ever wish for.

I happened upon an article on 3D VR Central written way back in February titled “Who Will be the George Lucas of VR? Film Schools Just Started Teaching It.” The big takeaway here is that America’s two big film schools–NYU and USC–have already begun incorporating VR into their curriculum. Also, those who are teaching VR are themselves still in the process of learning about it.

There seem to be two entry points to VR and that these entry points are other media, games and films. How fascinating that people who’ve traditionally been drawn to making films and people drawn to making games are both converging on a new medium that includes elements of both, while exhibiting features that come from neither.

Seattle is an indie video game town, and so far, VR games from Seattle are getting more attention than VR cinema. That said, there are a number of people working in VR cinema in the Emerald City. The Northwest VR Community Facebook Group, which touts itself as “a team of enthusiastic cinephiles willing to donate time and energy to creating and staffing… Virtual Reality (VR) events, regular meetup and film/game dev workshops” has 330 members. The SIFFX festival was deemed by many to be a hit (sadly, I couldn’t go), and I know that CNDY Factory has been a hub for a lot of discussion on the future of VR cinema in the Northwest.

Next month there are at least two events for VR cinephiles to attend, a class on Storytelling in Virtual Reality at Northwest Film Forum on August 16, and the Summer Cinematic VR Challenge at Discovery Park, August 19-21. The class is a one-night thing, and the cinematic challenge is a weekend immersive event where participants form teams and spend the weekend creating cinematic VR. I signed up for the NWFF class and can’t wait to learn more.

As the VR industry grows, education is going to become a more important sector of it. There’s a lot of great, informal learning going on in Seattle via hackathons, meetups, and workshops, but unless I’ve missed it, no major educational institution has embarked on creating a for-credit program in VR. UW’s new CoMotion Labs might be a place where this kind of thing gets started. Besides being next door to Trader Joe’s, one of the other great things about this startup incubator is it’s set to be the home of Mechanical Dreams, a VR content studio. Mechanical Dreams isn’t directly associated with UW, but is part of UW’s strategy to give startups space and access to university resources to incubate innovation.

CoMotion Labs Associate Director Elizabeth Scallon informs me that the facility will be open “after August 15.” Which means that next month is going to be huge for anyone in Seattle interested in the cinematic VR. I plan on blogging more about these developments soon.