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The initial version of “A Yosemite Welcome” was shown during Discovering Pacific Showcase at the university’s 2017 Homecoming.

The initial version of “A Yosemite Welcome” was shown during Discovering Pacific Showcase at the university’s 2017 Homecoming.

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Arts and Culture

Pacific’s John Muir virtual reality film to premiere at film festival

Feb 8, 2018

A 3-D virtual reality film created by Pacific students and faculty will make its California debut this weekend at the inaugural Mammoth Film Festival in Mammoth Lakes.

"A Yosemite Welcome" featuring Lee Stetson as John Muir is a 360-degree stereoscopic short film that tells the story of Muir's first encounter with a Yosemite bear. The film can be watched online as a standard 360 video, but is best experienced in a virtual reality headset.

"This VR short film is one of multiple Muir-inspired projects we produced in the fall that celebrates the 150th anniversary of John Muir's first trek into Yosemite Valley," said Kevin Pontuti, professor and director of Pacific's new Media X program, and who directed the project. Pacific's Holt-Atherton Special Collections holds the largest collection of John Muir letters, manuscripts, journals, sketchbooks and more.

Students Luke Bolle '17 and Jonathan Sosidka '21 served as sound recordist and editor working under staff and faculty supervision. Staff from Pacific's John Muir Center and the Holt-Atherton Special Collections were instrumental in brainstorming the theme for the project. Staff member Jeremy Hanlon, who supervises Pacific's The Cube, served as cinematographer.

"None of this would have been possible without the collaboration with John Muir actor and historian Lee Stetson who brought John Muir to life," Pontuti said.

Stetson, author of "The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures," has been portraying John Muir for more than 30 years and is the resident John Muir at Yosemite National Park. Stetson will also appear at Pacific's John Muir Symposium, March 23-24.

"As an educator, I think it's important to help students connect historic context to contemporary issues," Pontuti said. "We plan to expand this project with other Muir stories and settings in hopes of connecting the Muir legacy to a new generation of conservationists."

An early version of the film was presented as a live multimedia experience at Pacific's Discovering Pacific Showcase during the university's 2017 Homecoming.

"Since the Homecoming performance was a live performance, we wanted to push the virtual reality film experience," Pontuti said. "We decided to 'break the wall' and have Stetson appear on the large projection screen in Faye Spanos Concert Hall, in the headset, and live on stage for various portions of the performance. Once the audience settled into the idea that they were watching a film, we surprised them with Lee bounding onto to stage live and continuing the story without missing a beat. The audience loved it."

The film will be installed on a new streaming platform hosted by Los Angeles-based Amaze VR. The film will be available for Mammoth Film Festival attendees and visitors to Mammoth Ski Lodge to experience along with the other curated films and projects. Pacific's creative team will attend the festival to promote the project and answer questions.

"I think it's a fantastic opportunity and exposure for our students to be able to present a professional-level project at a high profile event like this," Pontuti said. "It's just a great networking event and an opportunity for the students to polish their presentation skills and gain experience and make connections. Hopefully they'll also get a chance to walk down the red carpet."

To learn more about Media X, visit or contact Pontuti at

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