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For A&S Drama Professor Mona Kasra’s Students, a New Reality Awaits

Published December 16, 2016 in News

By: Caroline Newman | University Communications

Sitting in a basement computer lab in the University of Virginia’s Department of Drama, students in Mona Kasra’s class pop on a headset and pop into 360-degree worlds of their own creation.

Kasra, an assistant professor of digital media design, led nine students in a semester-long experiment with 360-degree video and virtual reality, technologies that she believes will play a major role in the future of storytelling. This month alone, Time Inc.’s VR brand, Life VR, created a virtual reality experience taking viewers back to the Pearl Harbor attacks, while the NBA broadcasts games through Samsung’s VR headsets.

“Right now, everyone is trying to understand virtual reality and 360 tools, especially in terms of storytelling,” said Kasra, who will teach the course again in the spring semester. “These are existing and emerging tools that can help with storytelling, performance or narrative, generally expanding what media can do in our current culture.”

Kasra challenged her students to create their own 360-degree films telling a story that was important to them. Each student spent several days shooting their scenes with a specialized camera, then took to their computers to compile and edit the footage. Kasra used class time to screen the works-in-progress, offer her advice and encourage students to critique each other’s work.

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