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UNLV teaching the future of filmmaking

Posted at 1:43 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 17:06:43-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As we wait to see who will take home the Oscar for Best Picture, students at UNLV are hoping to be future filmmakers.

But the pandemic is changing the way students create films!

13 Action News reporter Kelsey McFarland shows you how students at UNLV are using virtual reality to make movie magic.

"It's been a terrific period of innovation for us as a department," said professor Fransisco Menendez.

He was recently named "teacher of the year" by a global organization for Elite International Film schools.

"He's always been at the forefront of technological change," said Michael Kowlaski, Chair of Cilect North America.

Menendez took the pandemic as an opportunity to teach immersive technology, creating films all through a computer.

"We have figured out a way to do virtual production and we have figured out a way to create a virtual classroom so all those things are very exciting."

Instead of your typical Zoom call students step into a virtual reality classroom with VR headsets.

"We got out of the Brady Bunch grid and we got into the VR space."

"You take a picture of yourself and it makes you an avatar. It's kinda creepy because it's just a half body but we get to move around the space and you get to be in front of people without your mask on because it's just a picture of you," said Julia Bresnan, UNLV film major.

Film major Julia says producing and directing films via Zoom challenges their creativity in new ways.

"A lot of our production designers have such creative ways to make props and drop them off at the actors' houses, so actors can act like they're passing something and picking something up it makes it more real. They also create virtual backgrounds for a lot of the actors," said Julia.

Menendez says virtual sets have been around for years but shows like "The Mandalorian" bring it back to the mainstream.

"We're getting this technology at UNLV and we're training these students for the 21st century," said Professor Menendez.

The department says eventually in-person shoots will become more common.

In the meantime the students have learned how to adapt and grow through an ever-changing industry.

"My main goal is that we wouldn't have a lost generation of filmmakers."