Learning Unity to create VR Films - Meet Nathan Estabrooks

Last Updated: July 15 2018


One of the most prominent opportunities for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality applications will be throughout the film industry. Nathan isn’t the only one who believes this, Avatar director and producer James Cameron and Iron Man Director Jon Favreau are also highly interested in VR. For Nathan Estabrooks, he’s decided to go back to school to learn how he can add new skills to his repertoire.

Merging Film and VR

Nathan has a long history in technology, beginning at twelve when he wrote his first Visual Basic program. Though he works in the film industry as a director and producer, he remains eager to learn new skills that he can bring back to his industry to improve his work.

“I always like to do different things” Last year Nathan taught himself Blender and 3D modeling, while he figured out how to do VFX work the prior year. He decided to learn virtual and augmented reality development due to the new “narrative possibilities” offered and to help support an animated VR web series he is creating.

While he finds camera equipment still not quite up to par for VR, Nathan wanted to learn more about 3D virtual environments so that he would have a better understanding of how new types of virtual reality content will be created. He admits that “most people in 2D world aren’t thinking about” virtual reality, though says that with both 360 video applications and 3D becoming more advanced, it’s “giving the viewer a greater sense of control.”

Learning VR Development with Circuit Stream

Though Nathan hasn’t written a computer program in about thirty years, he didn’t have any major concerns when he decided to learn VR development. As he described it, “on the surface, it seems like it’s easier than regular development” due to its highly visual interface.

While he was confident in his abilities to learn VR development, one huge help has been the structured class approach, especially while balancing two kids, freelancing and a feature film in production. Nathan also valued the ability to

““get instant feedback and have someone to interact with and push you”.

By the end he said he felt “a relief knowing he could do it. It was great, it was fun.” Though he claims he’s still not the greatest programmer, he especially valued his decision to take the course due to the 1-on-1 help from his instructor, Jason Campbell. He also found that the course’s hands-on nature was

“much more valuable than doing a Udemy course or watching a million YouTube videos.”

A Virtual Community

One aspect Nathan found helpful was being able to build a community while connecting with people from other classes working on similar projects. He says this community interaction helped create a “competitive spirit” driving him to do better work.

Similar to other Circuit Stream students, Nathan says that interacting with his classmates was a valuable experience. Even if people are unable to connect in the real world, Nathan reminisced about a couple meetings he had take place in Oculus parties, which provide an “extra degree of intimacy and an opportunity to connect with people.”

Next Steps

Nearing the end of his class, Nathan is interested how to bring artificial intelligence into VR films. Unlike traditional media, he sees VR providing significantly greater ability to provide custom audience experiences. He finds “the immediacy of the narrative exciting,” envisioning an interactive stage play that could dynamically move around the audience. Nathan sees 2D media as a “limitation we’ve all grown toward expecting. We don’t expect that from art anymore, we expect things to be alive and to be able to do stuff with it.”

More immediately, he finds VR useful for streamlining his workflow for film. With one VR application he has been able to plan out film scenes, placing actor avatars and other props in an augmented reality setting, allowing him to easily manipulate the scene. He also sees great potential enhancing traditional cinema experiences with phone applications, saying that “once that technology comes, I don’t see any way 2D technology can compete.”

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from his 10-week VR Development with Unity course is “a lot of confidence.”

While he’s been around programming for most of his life, until this point he hadn’t done a ton himself. By the end of the class Nathan walked away with the knowledge for how to plan an approach to a problem with a significantly deeper understanding. “It’s a big thing for me to understand what’s inside that black box. Now I can figure out how things work.”

Want more info on our 10-week VR course, checkout the VR Development with Unity course page.

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CEO of Circuit Stream

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