Media X major on building his first virtual reality project

media x student brandon reno
media x student brandon reno
Brandon Reno, a Media X student, was part of a team of students who created a virtual reality museum about John Muir.

Brandon Reno ‘20
Major: Media X
Hometown: Roseville, CA

Q – Why did you decide to come to Pacific?

BR – Because it was a smaller community. I always wanted to go to a smaller school because … as a kid, I had small group of friends more than a huge group of friends, so I was always close with smaller groups of people. So, the (Pacific) community made it feel like I was at home almost. That was mostly it.

I’m a swimmer, and Pacific has a really good swim program as well and a really nice coach. So, all of that stuff put together kind of drove me over here.

Q – Why did you choose Media X as a major?

BR – I came in as a computer science major, and I was interested in it, but there’s not really a creative aspect in it. So, I heard this stuff about Media X, and I decided to look into that.

I talked to the director at the time, which I think was Courtney Lehmann, and we had a couple of conversations about it, and it sounded like it was really more generally creative and on the rise of transmedia. I liked that you got to go in and choose your own path and kind of follow that.

So, all that stuff drove me in because I knew I could take a minor in computer science. So, I wasn’t really worried about that.

Q – What pathway did you choose? 

BR – Maker.

Q – What do you hope to do after you graduate?

BR – I have lots of goals for after I graduate, but mostly I’d like to end up somewhere in animation or game design. I’m really into mostly animation. That would be the best.

Q – Do you have a favorite project that you’ve done so far?

BR – The project we did (this fall) was super cool. We did a virtual reality museum of John Muir. We had four people on our team. It required two of us to make a bunch of models, and then we all together had to write the scripts, write the blue prints in Unreal Engine to get that thing working.

Q – Were there any challenges you had to get over?

BR – Lots. On one spectrum for the virtual reality part, none of us knew how to work anything with that. None of us had ever worked in Unreal Engine before. So, all of that was completely new. So, of course, that was a challenge just to start.

Then modeling-wise, stuff like that we were already familiar with. But having to learn how to apply it to making models for something like the museum. So you have to map UVs, which is something we’ve never done before and all that stuff — not seeing it as a model but seeing it as an object in a space is much different. We learned a bunch about that as well.

Q – What do you like best about the project you did?

BR – As a team, I think we’re all most proud of this one room we did. It’s a room with photos on the walls. They’re life-sized. The ground is moving grass so it’s like there’s wind moving through the room, and we’ve got all this ambient sound and stuff. As a team, we worked a long time on that room. We worked six hours a couple weeks ago, just in one session just to get all the sounds and everything working. I know for me, after we were done, I was relieved because it was a bear to finish, but it felt really good after we finished.

Individually, I’m probably, of course most proud of the models because I spent a lot of time on the ones I did, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. When my professors were looking at it, they were all very impressed. It’s cool to get that sort of recognition where sometimes people just kind of look over that and don’t really think twice about how it was created, but when you get recognition for something like that, it makes you feel pretty good.

Q – What would you tell a student who was thinking about majoring in Media X?

BR – I would say it’s the future of where things are going technology-wise. How I think about it is, when you get out into the professional world, it’s starting to not matter as much in the technology field if you have a master’s or bachelor’s or whatever it is. They’re looking (more) for experience.

I think it’s a really good resume item to put down Media X. They’ll see that and go, ‘What is this?’ It’s something you can talk about in an interview. Also, it’s much more experience-based. So I feel like you go into internships and to professional work knowing what you’re handling more than someone who’s been coding their entire college career.

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