Student Spotlight: From Lightning Designer to XR Creator
Last Updated: November 28 2019
The XR Development with Unity course from Circuit Stream is a project-based 10-week live online course, which is tailor-made to help you develop your skills for a career in virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
In our Student Showcase series, we’ll put the spotlight on a student to discuss their experience on the course, and ultimately, show you how it’s possible to grow with our expert education and guidance.
In the first installment, we have Vera Wegener.
Vera studied interior architecture at college, before specializing in architectural lighting to forge a career as a lighting designer. However, after 15 years in the industry, she found herself wanting more.
In 2012, Vera exhibited a light art installation project at the Luminale festival in Frankfurt, Germany.
"I made this cube that you could go into, where you would be immersed by light inspired by three themes: nature, urban, stillness," explains Vera.
Cables suspended the cube so people could walk under, and it was big enough for people to put their heads up inside to enjoy the visual experience.
Driven by a creative desire, Vera was eager to learn more about 3D visualizations for cinema, and had always thought about doing a second version of the “Light Refreshment Cubes” from the Luminale festival. Several years later, Vera got the push she needed.
In 2018, she saw an announcement from the prestigious Professional Lighting Design Convention (PLDC), calling for idea submissions for experience rooms. Vera sent her proposal for the VR Light Refreshment to the committee, and it was chosen to be part of the PLDC event in October 2019, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Suddenly, an opportunity was here, but was it too soon?
Until then, Vera’s only relevant experience was through simple online learning platforms, such as Udacity. She only had basic programming skills, but she was driven to learn.
“At that moment I never had made something in VR before, but really wanted to learn. I knew that if I didn’t have a goal it will not happen, so I was very glad to have this challenge,” she recalls.
Realizing Circuit Stream Had the Answer
Although she had a little bit of coding experience in HTML and CSS, Vera had never used C# - the dominant programming language in Unity.
With expectations on her shoulders, Vera needed to find a platform that could nurture her skill-set, and provide her with the knowledge and support required to bring her vision to reality.
When she read about the Circuit Stream course, there was an instant attraction, especially because of the one-to-one style of learning.
“I already had this project that I had to do, so I was really glad to have a peer to share it with,'' she explains.
However, she wasn’t alone. With three other people on the course at the same time, Vera had others to help her tackle problems and discuss techniques. Indeed, the relaxed learning environment was a big plus, easing any fears she had about taking on the challenge of the project.
“They had a good personal way to make you comfortable studying with them, and so I was excited to be on the course,'' recalls Vera.
Applying New Skills in XR
As somebody with a creative spark, Vera was happy to realize something about VR pretty soon after she started the Circuit Stream course.
“What I found out was that in virtual reality, there are some things you can program, but if you're more into the creative side of things, you can explore that too!"
So, how did the Circuit Stream course help Vera achieve her goals?
By focusing on UV editing in cinema 4D, she created a visual experience that went through several stages. First, it would act as a type of mindfulness application to help people relax. Her vision was simple:
“I didn't want to make people have to think too much or make too many choices -- I just wanted them to sit down and go on a journey.”
So, without any controller, they would begin with basic mindfulness breathing exercises. Vera’s app visualized this breathing exercise, with a sphere that would alternate between light and dark with every “breath” that it took.
With three cubes to pick from, people at the exhibition had the opportunity to relax and enjoy the visual experience.
Vera explains that it was really made for the Oculus Go, and this posed some challenges in creation.
"You really had to find out what are the limits of the screen because I had these trees with leaves and wanted to have green leaves. It didn't work. So, sometimes, you have to be creative to find the right thing."
People at the fair found her project interesting, and Vera found it easy to make some new connections.
Building her Knowledge and Network
So, where is Vera now?
Today, she continues with her freelance work in architecture. However, now, she does more with lighting design, utilizing her advanced skill-set for museums and exhibitions.
With new-found confidence, Vera realized that she could create these immersive visual experiences without a lot of programming experience. And now, she has her mind set on developing her XR skills further.
“I really want to get better to create even better experiences.”
Going forward, Vera plans to go to more conferences, so she can network with fellow professionals, and make connections with innovative female entrepreneurs. Through Facebook, she is active in popular groups for “Women in Virtual Reality," and had the VR days conference in Amsterdam marked in her calendar.
Vera recognizes that the VR industry is young, and many people are just experimenting with it now.
“It's more like a niche, as everybody is still a bit new to it right now. That’s what’s nice about it.”
Ready for the Future
By 2020, TechJury predicts there will be 1 billion augmented reality users. With widespread global use, more companies are preparing to get involved with virtual or augmented reality. So, the demand for people with XR skills is sure to skyrocket -- especially for people with experience in Unity.
Vera now has the skills to become a valuable part of the workforce of the future, giving her a high chance of securing some of the most in-demand XR jobs. While she is happy to continue in architecture, for now, she is keen to implement her XR abilities however she can.
Aside from getting familiar with the programming and software, Vera learned something crucial during the course:
"Sometimes, you have to start all over again because it's not working anymore. I have this new ability to just start again without getting frustrated. When this happens, I know that, now, I can make a better version."
XR projects don't always a straightforward, linear process or workflow. It's an innovative, rapidly-evolving space. With the Circuit Stream course, Vera has reset her mindset and developed the skills and patience required to embrace the changes and challenges that come with this exciting field.