Virtual Reality Film Gives Students a New Perspective for Black History Month

During Black History Month, technology teacher Melanie Royster's Prep School students experienced the virtual reality film, Traveling While Black. The film immerses viewers in African-Americans’ struggles to travel freely around the U.S., from restrictions in the pre-civil rights era to the challenges minorities face today. Afterwards, students reflected on how emerging technologies can engage audiences to raise awareness about important issues. 3D Modeling, Graphic Design and Digital Storytelling students shared their experience:

 

Kathryn B. ’20

It didn’t feel as though I was just watching a film. It was completely immersive; you felt as though you were a part of the story, or truly sitting across from the people who shared those stories. For instance, I remember the scene of the first person view of riding on a bus from the 1950s or 60s, but the scene that stuck out the most was the death of Tamir Rice, as told by his mother.

 

Valen M. ’21

The headset almost created a sense of physically being in the documentary, being spoken to directly by the people being interviewed. I even realized that at one point I was shaking my head in agreement as if I were conversing with the person on my screen. I recall the sentiment of fear that the African American people were forced to face during a period of extreme racism. One especially moving bit was a senior woman speaking about her experiences using the Green Book. The woman had traveled throughout America using the Green Book and explained its importance, as it helped to ensure safety for black people in America.

 

Alex S. ’21

In a traditional documentary you are watching what is happening, but in the virtual reality, you really experience what is happening. Specifically, the movie was dealing with such powerful and sad topics that watching it in “real life” deepened the sadness and the impact that the movie had on me. I found that having the movie in VR also prevented me from losing any focus and I could pay attention to every detail. As a result, I had a greater comprehension of the issues prompted in the VR movie that I would not have had if the film was traditional.

 

I remember seeing an old fashioned restaurant where the narrator discussed and set up the scene for the apex of the film. I also clearly remember the discussion between the mother of a child who was killed by a police officer and a journalist with many other people watching in the restaurant.

 

Harrison B. ’21

During the film, it really felt like you were sitting down and having a conversation. It made you keep constant attention since it surrounded you. I remember being on the train and listening to the man’s thoughts.

 

Massimo B. '21

Watching the documentary in VR allowed you to be placed into the environment. From being at the table where the conversations are happening to being in the train and watching stuff happen in front of you. The documentary in that format allowed it to leave more of a mark.