At the intersection of interactive storytelling and innovation is FilmGate Interactive Media Festival, the first conference of its kind in the U.S. to focus solely on interactive media and immersive content. Last weekend, University of Miami School of Communication hosted the fourth iteration of the festival where UM students had the opportunity to network with technology companies, check out the latest interactive equipment, and showcase their work. 

For three days, FilmGate connected attendees with artists who use new technologies to immerse audiences, advertising and marketing agencies, actors, filmmakers, and gaming companies from all over the world. Guests participated in interactive media screenings, virtual and augmented reality experiences, new technology workshops, networking events, and live entertainment.

 “It [FilmGate] was a great chance for students, faculty, and staff to experience some amazing projects. There were some virtual reality projects that students got to experience that they wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise” said Kim Grinfeder, founder and director of the Interactive Media Program at the School of Communication.

On Friday night, FilmGate kicked-off the festival with a networking party presented by Wynwood Brewing Company. In the new Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center, M.F.A. Interactive Media students Lina Angel and Zhiming (Eric) Sun participated in the Tech Playground, an event where SoC students networked with industry leaders while exhibiting their latest work.

Angel presented two games at FilmGate; Echo Earth and Treasure Key. Echo Earth was created during Global Game Jam (GGJ). GGJ is a 48-hour event challenging students to build a game in less than two days while following a theme. For Angel and her team, the theme was waves. 

Along with her experience in interactive media, Angel also has a background in graphic design and biology. Her background in biology helped her come up with the idea to build a game focused on echolocation. During Echo Earth, users ages 12 and older dive into a virtual reality where they are a baby beluga whale that must listen carefully and use echolocation to pinpoint food and other sea creatures. As players advance to other levels, they begin to use waves to create their own sounds.

Angel was excited to combine her backgrounds in biology and graphic design along with the skills she learned in the interactive media program.

“I had a lot of influence on Echo Earth. As a biologist, I was excited to incorporate my knowledge of animals and what species use echolocation with the skills I learned throughout the master’s program to build websites, mobile games, and apps,” said Angel. 

Angel also helped design Treasure Key, an educational drawing game for children ages 5 to 10. During Treasure Key, players work to unlock the treasure by completing tasks in different themed lands. Children play alongside the friendly pirate Roberto and Mandy the explorer to learn shapes, animals, and languages like Spanish and Mandarin.

Angel helped design Treasure Key last semester during the game development class taught by Clay Ewing, interactive media professor. During that class, Zhiming “Eric” Sun also built his game Cube Planet.

Cube Planet is a mobile game where you have to complete puzzles by sliding a cube to a specific position. It’s a minimalist puzzle game so you can focus on the game play and not on the graphics,” said Sun. 

Sun is hoping to release Cube Planet on google play and on the app store sometime in the next semester.

“Hosting FilmGate on campus not only benefited UM students and the local tech community, but also was a good opportunity to showcase some of the projects our students are working on,” said Grinfeder.