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Multimedia grad students make innovative 360-degree film


Promotional image for the 360-degree film "Concealed" created by three multimedia graduate students.

  • June 2, 2012

Eyes fixated on the large computer screen in front of him, graduate student Mustafa Ebrahimi scrolls through a flashback scene of his short film.

The scene, set in a dark and dingy room, takes place during a poker game. Characters glare at one another across a table littered with playing cards and poker chips, their arms tensely folded against their bodies.

Panning through the scene with a track ball computer mouse, Ebrahimi demonstrates how viewers of this film can explore 360 degrees of the content, viewing each character from a central and fixed location.

Although a specific character is speaking, the interactive concept of the film allows Ebrahimi to navigate through the film’s content and focus on a character or object of his choosing.

“We wanted to come up with a story that would complement the interactive part of technology,” said Scott Fowler, CSUEB multimedia graduate student. “This is the best way to tell a story.”

Ebrahimi collaborated with two fellow multimedia graduate students at CSUEB to take filmmaking to the next level with their interactive short film, “Concealed 360,” attracting outside attention, including from news outlets such as KRON4, which featured a segment about the project on its newscast in January.

Determined to take an innovative approach to their thesis project, Martin Wood, Fowler and Ebrahimi created a film that allows audience members to develop their own interpretations of the film’s storyline by manually panning through scenes in the narrative.

Using six cameras to show viewers 360 degrees of a scene, the film crew chose to stay away from traditional moviemaking techniques such as filming with one camera. Additionally, instead of processing one frame of pixels—the rate at which still images are displayed to compose the complete moving picture—every second, like a normal film, the team had to process 24, making it a much more difficult task.

The film crew introduced their short movie to the public May 19 at the 2012 Bay Area Maker Faire, a national festival where innovators of all sorts come together to showcase their projects.

Prior to the festival showing, the multimedia students gave the CSUEB community a sneak peak, full HD experience on May 14 where students, faculty and staff made their way through the interactive film. The official premiere is scheduled at 6 p.m. June 13 in AE 160 on the Hayward Campus. Admission is free.

Wood, who was inspired by Google Earth, was excited about the innovative idea of letting viewers choose the content they would like to consume.

“I thought to myself, let’s take it to the next level and have this content move, instead of a stable, single frame,” said Wood.

After considering several different story types and genres, the multimedia team decided a murder mystery would best fit the interactive concept of the 20-minute movie.

The crime drama begins in a hospital when amateur drug trafficker Dillon Wagner wakes up from a coma unfamiliar with how he got there. Through flashbacks in the movie, Wagner begins piecing together the events leading to his hospitalization and remembers seeing his best friend, Joey Valeri, murdered in front of him.

Lead script writer, Fowler, says from that point on, it’s the audiences’ job to solve the murder mystery, as the movie incorporates interactive technology that permits viewers to scroll through the flashback scenes of the film.

The multimedia team finished shooting the film during winter quarter and focused solely on post-production during the spring quarter.

Ebrahimi said the crew’s main challenge was getting the filmed content to play out of one machine, but appear on three monitors simultaneously without any lag.

“This was the thing that could make or break our project,” said Ebrahimi. “If we weren’t able to find a powerful enough machine that could show everything, there was no point in making the movie.”

Finding technology fast enough to process the film’s content was not the only challenge the team met along the way.

“Making a film on a student’s budget is very hard,” said Fowler. “Finding actors to work for free was very difficult.”

So far, the film has cost the students between $10,000 to $12,000. The majority of expenses were paid out-of-pocket.

Although, Wood said they recently received a $3,000 donation from family and friends.

“Everyone has been very supportive,” he added.

Wood, Fowler and Ebrahimi say they are unsure what the future holds, but as they all demonstrate creative passion, they are certain they want to pursue careers in multimedia.

Check out images and production details about "Concealed" on the movie Web site.

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