The Great Escape: DMD coordinator blends cutting-edge curriculum with back-to-basics home life

Chris Brower, Red River College

He’s happy where he is, but that hasn’t stopped Chris Brower from planning an escape.

Brower is the coordinator of the Digital Media Design program at Red River College. Currently, he is leading a team of DMD and 3D Computer Graphics students and faculty that are creating the College’s first-ever escape room.

According to Brower, the adventure game will be time machine-themed, and will feature technology that could make even the esteemed Doc Brown utter a trademark “Great Scott!”

“It’s going to have virtual reality components,” says Brower, who’s also the instructor for the DMD program’s Video and Motion Graphics course.

“Literally, you’re going to go into this time machine, which is VR [virtual reality], and you’ll go into places in the past, like an old pirate ship and an alchemist lab, and also future places, like this dystopian future environment.

“Our students have built all the different game environments. The 3DCG faculty, Tom Lepp and Matt Broeska, have once again outdone themselves. We even have students and faculty from the Business Information Technology program helping. It’s really taken on a life of its own.”

Brower says the plan is to finish the escape room by May, then open it up to industry, and perhaps, permit the public to take a trip through time this summer.

In the fall, DMD will introduce cutting-edge courses in video game design and audio, as well as a 360 Video and Immersive Filmmaking course.

“What I love about DMD is we’re right at the crossroads of technology, art and design. We’re trying to be as cutting-edge as we can and 360-degree video is really taking off, so we want to push it as much as we can,” Brower says.

“We’re going to be training students to not only shoot and edit 360 videos, but also to add graphics and interactive components, where they can make an interactive film or game out of it.”

As DMD coordinator, Brower’s mission is not only to make sure the program stays relevant, but also innovative.

“We’re always talking with industry, asking them, ‘What’s needed next?’” Brower says.

“We’re also talking with the students, asking ‘What do you want to see more of?’ and ‘What do you want to see less of?’ And of course, the faculty has a major role with their ideas. Our teachers have been fantastic in terms of trying to push technology, trying to be the best for the students, and showing them what’s possible.

“It’s taking those things and pushing them forward. Also, just doing research on what is new and what is up-and-coming. It’s taking all that and using it to decide what courses are implemented.”

While his career is cutting-edge, Brower’s life away from work is back-to-basics. A year and a half ago, Brower and his wife Tara moved from Wolseley to an acreage near Lorette, just outside the city. The couple, both born and raised in Winnipeg, relocated to the country to dig into permaculture, an eco-friendly agricultural system that promotes working with nature, not against it.

The Browers even made a mini-documentary — called Our Prairie Permaculture Adventure — for BellMTS’ Stories from Home, that details their transition from city to country life.

“My wife and I love nature and we always dreamed of having our dream house out in the country, but to be honest we were a bit scared of the commute,” Brower says. “We thought, ‘We’re taking a chance here — we might not actually like it.’

“But, the commute is nothing compared to the amount of enjoyment we get out of it. It’s so fantastic, creating our own orchard and being surrounded by nature. We should have done this years ago!

“It’s interesting, during the day I’m working with all of this cutting-edge technology, and then on the weekend my wife and I are digging in the dirt. To me, this is the perfect balance — the perfect life.”

— Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)