3 immersive initiatives JHU's tech-focused film program is bringing to Baltimore - Technical.ly Baltimore


Nov. 13, 2018 6:14 pm

3 immersive initiatives JHU’s tech-focused film program is bringing to Baltimore

At the Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies program's recent summit, details emerged on an artist residency with Sundance, a coding academy and a volumetric capture studio.

Gabo Arora directs JHU's Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies program.

(Courtesy photo)

Johns Hopkins’ Immersive Storytelling and Emerging Technologies program looks to explore technology in such as virtual and augmented reality, AI and volumetric capture when it comes to filmmaking and creative pursuits.

For director Gabo Arora, it’s just as important that the program which was launched in January within JHU’s film program at the Centre Theatre in North Ave. brings Baltimore into the picture.

One of the places that’s on view was at an immersive media summit meeting that’s open to the public. The second edition was held over the weekend at the university’s recently opened FastForwardU space in Remington. The

We want to bring people together to really show them a lot of what we’re doing with the students through our lab and  have the community learn from some of the most cutting-edge, creative pioneers in the world,” Arora said.

Arora, a filmmaker who earned accolades for work in VR and cofounder of New York studio TomorrowNeverKnows, wants the program to push tech boundaries, and a setting like Johns Hopkins provides room to experiment. But the community is just as important, as a primary goal is to ensure that work comes from diverse voices, and ultimately challenge “entrenched inequalities,” Arora said.

It was on view at the summit, as projects showed stories in which eight New Yorkers touched on gentrification on a Brooklyn fire escape, and looked at perceptions in the borough’s Brownsville neighborhood. Others went inside Sufi culture, and looked at an Iraq War veteran’s memories.

“What we’re finding with this new medium very early is that it is being used for empathy, it is being used for creative expression and I want to help preserve that,” he said.

That combination of technology and community engagement is behind new partnerships that ISET announced at the summit. Here are details on each:

Sundance Institute Artist in Residence

The Sundance Institute, which is the nonprofit behind the Utah film fest of the same name, is providing support for artists working on a new project to work at ISET for three months. “This will provide an artist with about $25,000 directly that they can use toward a project that will be at Sundance or at a major film festival,” Arora said. They’ll live in Baltimore, hold community workshops and teach at ISET. The residency will debut next year.


Coding Academy with Decoded

Partnering with U.K.–based tech education startup Decoded, ISET is establishing a coding bootcamp within its program to offer training in tech skills that apply to the new kinds of creative approaches the formats allow. The program will include a series of courses that leads to a certificate, Arora said. Along with students in the program, ISET is looking to engage with companies to participate and open up seats for members of the Baltimore community.

Volumetric Capture Studio

Through a partnership with New York–based Depthkit, a volumetric capture studio is being constructed inside ISET’s lab on North Ave. It will offering tools for students in AR and VR capture. Arora said they also aim to set aside office hours so it is open to the public. It’ll serve as one studio space for a new community storytelling project called Charm City Holograms is seeking to capture the stories of local residents, like a Storycorps for VR. Along with providing space to tell a story, it will help introduce the technology to people. It’s currently under construction.

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