Merging cinema and technology
Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm in News
From immersive virtual reality to 3-D imaging, the research conducted at USCâs School of Cinematic Arts doesnât focus solely on the cinema industry, but pioneers technologies used in other fields, including engineering, architecture and medicine.
âPeople donât realize that much is going on here in terms of research, but in fact thereâs a lot,â said Scott Fisher, associate dean for research and founding chair of the Interactive Media Division at SCA. âWeâve got collaborations worldwide.â
In the Interactive Media Division alone, Fisher said, the school has received funding from companies like Sony, Nokia and Google to pioneer new technology and applications for their existing software, including panoramic camera technologies and a program that looks to sync personal photos to Google Earth.
âFaculty and students at SCA are conducting research in areas of game innovation, interactive storytelling, social media, mobile technologies, 3-D visualization and many other areas,â said Marientina Gotsis, a research assistant professor who leads the Interactive Media Divisionâs Games for Health Initiative, a program designed to connect health professionals with various forms of interactive media. âProjects tend to be very diverse and interdisciplinary with collaboration with architecture, health, communications, medicine, neuroscience, biology, mathematics, history and more.â
Elizabeth Daley, dean of the School of Cinematic Arts, said itâs this diverse interdisciplinary work that has propelled SCA to the top.
âWeâre pushing to innovate,â Daley said. âWhat everybody here is interested in is innovation. Ultimately what you value â in cinema too, for that matter â youâre not looking for things that can be replicated. So innovation and originality are the criteria by which we live.â
Though some of the research conducted does improve on existing technologies, one professor noted the only way to stay relevant is to do research that goes beyond whatâs happening today.
âWeâre looking at things that we donât quite understand yet, which means by definition weâre out in front and thatâs why I think research is critical to any school,â said Mark Bolas, associate professor and director of the INIT Lab at SCA. âMy students are going to graduate in a couple of years and I want them to be experts in whatever job theyâre going to have in five to six years from now.â
According to Bolas, being ahead of the game is what has gotten SCA its top ranking.
âIf youâre number one, you paint a target on your back,â Bolas said. âSo the only way to stay number one is to actually be ahead, to be in front of yourself, to be running so fast you donât even know where youâre going âŠ If youâre looking at whatâs here now, youâre number two. Youâre looking at the other guyâs back.â
Being number one also means SCA is often sought out by major corporations looking to fund research.
âThereâs been a grant from Microsoft, Electronic Arts, weâve had support from HP, weâve had support from the MacArthur Foundation, so it runs quite a gamut,â Daley said. âResearch always comes from outside grants. The university also has their own research grants that our faculty applies for that theyâve done quite well with.â
Those involved in research also appreciate the support they receive from the school.
âRight now, technological innovations are happening at an exponential rate âŠ So the school has to exponentially increase their commitment to research just to keep up,â Bolas said. âSo far theyâre pulling that off.â
But in the end, Daley said, the importance of the schoolâs ranking is in part seen in the quality of students it attracts.
âMost of the students that come here want to be dealing with new things,â Daley said. âI think the fact that we have a games program, that we do 3-D, these are all things that are very attractive to students.â