Filmmaker with Coco credits sees virtual reality as Tico teaching tool

Filmmaker DJ Roller says that when people first see virtual reality productions up close their consensus review is always contained to one word: Wow. And though the futuristic industry gets typecast as an expensive and cool video game accessory, Roller said virtual reality has promising educational value in a place like Costa Rica.

Specializing in 3D and IMAX films, Roller and his team at Next3D have begun working on filming projects for the virtual reality company Oculus Rift. The company’s headset in which people are meant to feel as if they’re in a chosen setting holds obvious entertainment value, especially for the gaming and sports industries.

Whether it be filming the country’s many ecological beauties or transporting users to faraway lands and events, Roller said Costa Rican students could easily benefit from the technology.

“You’ve got kids in Costa Rica who could go to Yellowstone or Yosemite on a trip that they maybe never could have gone on because its just not practical,” Roller said. “On the same note, kids from the U.S. could see underwater or rainforest films from Costa Rica.”

Roller is familiar with the country since his father lives here and he has visited multiple times for film work. As a cinematographer and producer, Roller works primarily underwater. One of his first major productions was shot at Isla del Coco when he filmed a program about hammerhead sharks for the Discovery Channel. Costa Rica’s photogenic island that supports hundreds of marine animal and fauna species is a national park that remains protected and preserved by the government, drawing respect from the artist.

“I think the work that is being done by the Costa Rican government and private industries – even the park rangers that work out there – its pretty amazing what they do to regulate this gem they have,” he said.

No plans to film have been set out, but Roller mentioned the island as a place where virtual reality camera crews could find a wealth of footage.

Virtual reality combines the ability to wow the senses with an unprecedented way of accessing and experiencing a setting that he said makes the U.N. World Heritage site a perfect place to film.

“Although people can go out there and do a dive, not everyone is ever going to be able to do that,” he said. “If we took these virtual reality camera systems down, it would allow any number of people to be there.”

Roller also expressed interest in coordinating with an IMAX theater in the country to screen some nature-themed movies intended for students.

Roller lives in Laguna Beach, California, and has filmed and produced numerous IMAX and 3D movies, including recent big picture productions “Great White Shark” and “The Last Reef.” He has garnered two Emmy nominations over his career, including one for his work with James Cameron called “Expedition: Bismarck.”

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