VR Sculpting Workshop with Medium: A Series
Oculus Creators Blog
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Posted by Oculus Medium Team
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January 22, 2019
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The Oculus Medium Team has hosted 13 VR Sculpting workshops to date. In these workshops students learn about 3D modeling techniques using Oculus and Medium as tools of instruction. Read on to learn more about this interesting experiment in bringing VR to the classroom.

Professional 3D Artist Glen Southern once told us “It would take me a week to teach Zbrush, but with Medium, the students get it within the first couple hours. The rest is fun.”

While we work to establish Medium as a professional concepting and production tool, we’ve traveled the world with our home-grown VR Sculpting Workshop. The workshop is an ever-evolving, on-location deep dive into 3D modeling and concepting, using Medium as the tool of instruction. Every student gets their own Rift for the workshop and quality hands-on time with the instructor. We’ve brought these workshops to:

  • Los Angeles, August 2017. Focus on character design and form.
  • Stuttgart, Germany, April 2018. Focused on mammal anatomy.
  • Menlo Park, August 2018. Focus on character design and form.
  • London, August 2018. Focus on character & creature design, and environment & architecture.
  • Malta, September 2018. Focus on character design and environment & architecture.

Learning a new 3D modeling tool is difficult. Even though Medium is “intuitive,” and “strips away the complexities of 3D,” it's still a tool where navigation and techniques are learned skills. To help accelerate education, it's imperative that these digital artists are able come together in a physical space to deep-dive into Medium with an esteemed instructor.

Back in August 2017, we hosted our very first VR Sculpting Workshop in Los Angeles. Master sculptor and Oculus Designer, Giovanni Nakpil taught this highly selective and intensive course, an experiment for teaching with, and within, VR. Fifteen advanced artists jumped into Medium for this 8-hour workshop, a program that covered not only the basics of Medium, but the philosophy of sculpting forms. Coming from diverse background, some had never touched VR prior to this, while some were already fluent in Medium. Students came from Disney, Laika, Sony, Cartoon Network, Dreamworks, Henson and more.

This first VR Sculpting Workshop was the beginning of experimenting with teaching with and within VR.

Teaching VR Outside of VR

Walking through the classroom one observes these artists fully immersed in their work and we see a glimpse at the future.

Teaching outside of VR feels like a normal classroom. Students observed a lecture session then received dedicated time to apply the techniques they just learned. On-location for these lecture sessions is not necessary. We could just as easily have recorded this online. However, it's specifically the quick and constant transitions from lecture to hands-on where on-location become so crucial.

Observing UI navigation or sculpting technique then being able to replicate it inside the HMD with no reference is challenging. Additional verbal instruction or quick reminders are regular, practical, instantaneous (conducted verbally as the student is “blind” to the outside world, enveloped within the VR environment). It was clear that for a hands-on exercise like VR sculpting, students desperately needed to be in VR with immediate feedback to learn UI navigation and sculpting techniques.

Teaching VR Within VR

We also utilized the beta feature, Studio Share, allowing users to invite a friend into their sculpting session. Currently, users work on separate sculpts, but share the same space. As a form of instruction, Studio Share allowed Gio to hop into a session with any of the students and provide direction directly from within VR. He was able to point at the direct spot on a student’s sculpt and demo in VR how that form should look. Studio Share allowed for more intimate and more unambiguous one-on-one instruction.

The Medium team created tools that solved the problem of teaching several students with headsets on. I've always had a goal of exploring education and teaching in the VR space. Studio Share is the beginning of that goal. I was able to teleport to each student's class session and give feedback, having to neither take off my headset, nor walk to their work station. This tool showed me the future of social interaction in VR in a very productive and direct manner.” - Gio Nakpil

Studio Share is currently only built for 1:1 interaction. In the workshop format, we've found utilizing Studio Share for art directing and critique. For general workshop instruction, interchanging lecture and hands-on training proved most effective.

While we love Gio’s style and teaching methods, his approach to Medium is just that: his. For other workshops, we’ve invited other influential artists from the industry. For example, in London, we hosted workshops with three different instructors who focused on 3 different applications of VR sculpting.

Finally, with new releases of the Medium tool, instructors have been able to adapt their workshop chapters. Medium 2.0, launched in June 2018, included many user-requested features and an UI overhaul to help users channel flow, ideation, and creation. Gio Nakpil tells us that “these new features have changed my workflow, so I’ve adjusted the workshop to reflect the new and improved tool.”

We plan to continue our VR Sculpting Workshop Series, adding more advanced courses. Next up:

  • Paris, March 2019 at IAMAG Master Classes with a focus on environment and concept art.
  • More in the works!