Columbia College gets high-tech multimedia facilities

March 4, 2010 6:08:37 AM PST
Columbia College has long been known for its excellence in television and film. They've taken it to the next level with a brand new media production center in a brand new building that includes a motion-capture studio.

The classroom has changed dramatically in the last couple decades. The campus has expanded, and the corner of 16th and State is now home to a new, state-of-the-art media production center.

"It's our first building that Columbia has ever built from the ground up, for film students, interactive arts and media students and television students," said Doreen Bartoni, dean, School of Media Arts, Columbia College.

As you walk through the 35,000-sqaure-foot facility, you're immediately struck with how hands-on it is. There are two professional soundstages that even freshmen can work on.

"Producers, directors cinematographers, gaffers, anyone working with light, actors, will come together to make films," Bartoni said.

The studios are also equipped with cameras that can be controlled in the classroom. There are nearly 45 classes this semester ranging from lighting, building props and sets, to acting and directing.

"I think it gives us the opportunity to work with different technology we might not have at other schools; we have a green-screen center, a great new lighting stage. Those are awesome to work with," said Katlin Schneider, Columbia College directing student.

The most innovative element at Columbia's media production center, the motion capture studio, (we're talking "Avatar" here), is used for teaching 3-D computer animation, digital filmmaking and game arts.

ABC7's Roz Varon, an alum of the college, got a firsthand lesson in motion-capture technology, as she was turned into a computer-animated character. The first step was wearing a snug black suit. Next, she was tightened into a harness, so she'd have a range of motion. The final step: She was covered with dozens of reflective markers that will be picked up by the infrared cameras.

"When you have a whole lot of the markers you can use them to define motion of body parts. And when you have that you have a moving skeleton, which you can them put any sort of character on to animate," said Brian Wright, faculty, Columbia College media production center.

This semester there are 2,500 students taking classes at the new media production center. By the way, famous Columbia alums Mauro Fiore, Class of '87, is the Academy Award-nominated cinematographer for the film "Avatar."

Jeanne Gang, who won the Emporis 2009 Skyscraper of the Year award for Chicago's Aqua building, was the design architect for Columbia's media production center.