Written and illustrated by Kristen Camisa (Illustration ’18)
Award-winning illustrator, designer, sculptor and film director Brandon Oldenburg (Illustration ’95), was on campus for Ringling College’s 2017 Preview Day last Saturday!
He gave a fascinating presentation to current and prospective students about his creative journey and entering the uncharted territory of Virtual Reality, a field that Ringling College students can now major in starting next fall. He introduced us to his newest venture, Flight School, a multipurpose studio that just released the new VR experience Manifest 99. I was fortunate to be able to pick Brandon’s brain a few days before his arrival, but he’s even more awesome in person!
Here’s 7 Questions with Brandon Oldenburg.
What were you like as a student at Ringling College?
I had chronic introvert-itus during my stint at Ringling. However, miraculously I make a good deal of friends for life. No idea how as I often fled to the shadows during most on campus social events.
How did you get into the world of animation coming from an illustration background?
I loved making home movies with my super 8 in grade school and then upgraded to video in its various forms in high school. I was always trying to tell fantastical stories. I also loved to draw and paint my whole life. Animation is where these two loves collide. It was an inevitable collision of art-forms.
You do what you love and become what you do no matter what the label says.
You’ve recently teamed up with Reel FX to create your new studio Flight School! What inspired this new company?
As a cofounder of Reel FX and Moonbot Studios this new venture is like a merger between peanut butter and chocolate. Take the 15 plus years of building Reel FX into an entertainment studio and the 8 plus years of telling great stories with emerging technologies at Moonbot and then swirling the best talents from both places into a new delicious endeavor you get Flight School. Who wouldn't want to mix these two ingredients if they had the chance.
Your new VR game, Manifest 99, just came out and it looks awesome! How did you arrive at this cool concept of being on a train to the afterlife, and why did you choose VR as its platform?
It all started with a group of us evaluating all the things we loved about this new medium as well as the areas that need improvement. There was a whiteboard full of boxes we wanted to check. We wanted to identify a way to move in space that connected meaningfully to a narrative. We wanted the role you play in this experience to have a deep meaningful connection to the narrative as well. So then after identifying our wishes and the audience that is ready to consume this medium we then went to work on checking those boxes in a satisfying way for ourselves. We then made up a story that could be told for the budget we were allocating and the boxes we wanted to check. Contrary to most creative desires this project did not start with the story first. That took a great deal of discipline and focus.
You’re obviously looking toward the future, creating a multipurpose studio that’s exploring new media like VR and AR! Where do you see this technology taking the entertainment industry in the future, and what advice would you give to students who want to dive into the world of VR/AR?
VR is a tool not unlike a pencil. Every industry can use a pencil. Every major can use one as well. From the storytelling / gaming side of things we are always wanting the cross use of assets. Technology now allows for a more efficient path of sharing assets from gaming to film making. Those areas in the past rarely ever shared resources thus things cost twice as much.
It will always come down to the dreamers and creative storytellers to keep making stories worth telling in these mediums. I always want to reward the audience for being curious. A deeper story awaits in VR or AR. We want to allow you to start your story journey here and work your way to the book, show or film. Or the other way around. It's hard to contain stories. We almost always develop stories and worlds that are too big for the page or screen. These other venues allow room for sub-narrative exploration.
When it comes to AR as a medium it is more like theatre in the round than cinema. Things can be seen from any angle plus you have the freedom to look and engage with what you want.
When it comes to VR as a medium it is more like theatre in a donut than cinema. Things happen all around you. You choose to look and engage with what you want.
Some of the questions we need to keep asking ourselves:
Why do I have the freedom to see things this way?
Who am I in these story worlds?
Who or what inspires you?
I am always inspired by those who can turn dreams into reality.
Artists dreamed of traveling to the moon. Scientists made it happen.
This symbiotic relationship keeps me going.
If you had a superpower what would it be?
The same one Kali aka: #8 has in Stranger Things Season 2. What is it? It's the psychic ability to induce mental hallucinations, causing you to see and or hear something that is not truly there.