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PRESS: Ringling College Announces VR Major

Ringling College Becomes First Art + Design School to Offer Virtual Reality Development BFA

The College will welcome its first class to the new undergraduate VR degree program in fall 2018

OCT 18, SARASOTA, FL – In fall 2018, Ringling College of Art and Design will be the first art college—and one of the first educational institutions—to offer a degree in the expanding field of Virtual Reality for artists and designers. The Ringling College Virtual Reality Development major, a four-year, BFA degree program, is accepting applications now for 2018-19.

“Virtual Reality is going to change everything,” says Dr. Larry R. Thompson, President of Ringling College. “The opportunities extend far beyond the worlds of gaming and entertainment—this technology will revolutionize the way we live and work, and it will offer unexplored opportunities for artists and designers. We want our students and graduates to be leading this monumental shift, advancing and defining this new field, and laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s generations of creative leaders, companies, and organizations.”

Students enrolled in the VR major will create experiences for countless industries, including healthcare, advertising, architecture, education, and entertainment. New advancements in the field will be driven, like so many other fields, by artists and designers, and Ringling College VR students will be at the forefront of this progress. Creating for VR offers unprecedented opportunities and challenges for creatives, and students will be empowered to shape and share stories from multiple points of view. In addition, the control the viewer can exercise over their own perspective presents entirely new opportunities for writers, directors, actors, and animators.

Students will take courses in Visual Scripting, Concept Development for Virtual Worlds, Visual Development for VR, and VR Development, creating 3D content and VR experiences. To supplement and amplify the classwork, Ringling College will invite studio professionals into the classroom to deliver presentations and collaborate on new projects—including an upcoming partnership with Flight School, a studio known for its pioneering work in VR, AR, games, and film. Details of the project are still in progress, but this learning-by-doing model will provide incomparable exposure and experience for burgeoning VR artists.

The VR Development major will live in the College’s renowned Computer Animation department, headed by Jim McCampbell. He has successfully established the College’s Computer Animation program among the very top programs in the country and around the world. In addition, McCampbell created the Ringling College Game Art program.

“Thanks to recent, incredible strides in technology, Virtual Reality has become a new medium,” explains McCampbell. “We are excited to be forging into this new area that has so much potential for reshaping how we think about storytelling experiences. The ability to tell stories from multiple points of view and the ability to move the viewer from a role of spectator to that of a participant will serve as a brand new canvas for artists and designers. Ringling College’s world-renowned reputation for the fusion of art and technology makes this the perfect place to launch such a cutting-edge major.”

He continues, “The Computer Animation Department has been working with virtual reality for the last few years via its Game Art major, and has alumni working in VR at places such as Magic Leap, Baobab Studios, Google, Flight School, Hoyt Architecture, and Sharecare. This new major in Virtual Reality Development will allow us to explore the full breadth that the medium has to offer. Virtual Reality majors will learn to design, create, and analyze immersive experiences within the virtual reality medium that inform, educate, and entertain.”

Ringling graduate Brandon Oldenburg worked with Reel FX Animation Studios’ VR/AR division to launch Flight School this year. He leads the team of creative directors and artists to produce branded entertainment projects and original intellectual properties. The studio released “Manifest 99” this past summer, which is described by Oldenburg as an interactive narrative VR experience that leads the user on a mysterious and emotional journey of discovery and redemption. Oldenburg is an award-winning film director, illustrator, and designer, whose films have won an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, multiple Cannes Lions and a host of other industry accolades.

“Developing creative and technical talent within the VR industry is vital to grow this powerful medium. Flight School’s partnership with Ringling College will allow us to work hand-in-hand to identify and cultivate the next great crop of talent in the field,” says Oldenburg.

Oldenburg will be present at the Ringling College 2017 Fall Preview Day on November 4 to discuss the VR industry today and facilitate a demo of the technology. He and the Flight School team are actively working with the College faculty to help shape the new VR program. They will provide input on curriculum, mentorship of students, and have plans to launch a project-specific collaboration later this year.

Schools across the country have been experimenting in the VR, AR, and 360 realms over the last few years in efforts to improve their virtual tours and extracurricular programming, but this major will pioneer and push forward education in the actual creation of immersive virtual experiences, as well as firmly establish and define VR as a viable medium for artists today. 

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