On Nov. 17, 2017, more than 70 high school seniors visited Middlesex Community College to engage in a five-hour workshop called “360-Degree Learning: VR Video.” The participating students traveled from Nathan Hale-Ray (East Haddam), Portland, Valley Regional (Deep River), Vinal Tech (Middletown), and Westbrook high schools.
Held in the cutting-edge Center for New Media classrooms, MxCC faculty and partners from CTGS Productions of Thomaston, Conn., led three sessions that included: shooting video with 360-degree camera; video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro software; and a high-end VR experience. All the students interacted with hands-on access to the cameras, computers, software, and VR equipment provided by MxCC during each session. After the early morning welcome session, the students divided into three groups and rotated between each 50-minute breakout session.
At the end of the workshop, each school was given a 360 camera with accessories for the students to take back with them and, using their new skills, prepare a virtual reality video on their own. They will bring back their creations to the MxCC arts and media festival to be held next May.
“It’s so interesting to see new technology like this. It’s like you’re in another world,” observed Emily Miner, a senior from Deep River, Conn., who is also considering attending Middlesex next year. “I especially enjoyed learning about the 360 video camera, since I plan to study cinematography in college.”
In the 360 camera session, Craig Ziogas, producer and partner at CTGS, introduced the Ricoh Theta, which is a camera that shoots everything in 360 degrees. The camera easily fits in the palm of your hand or on a tripod. Press a button and it records in three dimensions as well as audio. Smaller groups of students dispersed around the campus to experiment shooting with the camera and tripod for 20 minutes before returning to the classroom. As with most digital cameras today, the Ricoh Theta easily connects to a computer, and the students quickly downloaded their video files into the Ricoh Theta software. By simply dragging the files into the app on the desktop, the software converts the video segments and “stitches” them together.
The students also quickly learned how to edit video using the Adobe Premiere Pro software in a detailed, step-by-step session presented by Tim Coakley, also a partner at CTGS. Using video samples provided on Macintosh desktops, they shortened segments of a VR tour of a town in Connecticut, a popular way to use virtual reality online.
“Psychotherapists also use virtual reality to treat veterans with PTSD. By simulating and controlling elements in the patient’s past experience, they can relive these situations and draw back from them,” explained Coakley. “It can also be a way to overcome your fears, such as being in an airplane. Organizations such as the Smithsonian, The New York Times, CNN, Huffington Post, etc., have embraced 360 journalism, and VR is very useful in the travel industry.”
Middlesex digital media professors Rick Eriksen and John Shafer explained the video assignment to the attendees before bringing them into the Center for New Media broadcast studio for the high-end VR experience. This involved each student taking turns wearing the HTC Vive headset or the Oculus Rift VR headset to view the VR world up close.
Nicole Esposito, who teaches a traditional video production course at Westbrook High School, was excited to bring 12 students to the Middlesex program. “We have high-definition cameras at our school, but this is my first time experiencing 360 video equipment,” she said.
Hosted by Middlesex Community College, this workshop was funded by the Perkins Postsecondary Enhancement Grant.
The Center for New Media at MxCC offers innovative applied associate of science degrees in digital media production, with concentrations in the following tracks: video and film, multimedia design and digital arts, news and sports, corporate video production, web design and development, and audio and music production. For more information, visit mxcc.edu/cnm/.
Since 1966, Middlesex Community College (mxcc.edu/) has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 60 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.