Building Media Facilities.Key


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Rules of thumb for thinking about media labs.

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Building Media Facilities.Key

  1. 1. Advanced Media Hampshire College How to build new convergent media labs for the liberal-arts student
  2. 2. Building Media Labs: an evolving experience Honest discussions and openness of motivations are the best approach in the process of media facility design. While part of it is obviously technical a lot of it is surprisingly political. If you don’t adequately share the politics of why it’s being built your design will not succeed, but a few basic rules can help you with the rest. Here are mine.
  3. 3. “State of the Art” is an illusion It is fictional and elusive. When you have it you will not benefit from it. When you lose it you will be despondent because of it. Ignore it. Find out what you really want to do and provide ways to do that. Don’t hold back from daring ways to work. Finding exciting ways to work really helps develop the work. Do what you love. Remember, that will change over time too.
  4. 4. Don’t buy equipment – build workflow (systems) Every thing has to work together. Fun items and single interest equipment have no place in a production workflow. If it doesn’t help the entire system forget it. It’s just money down the drain. The power is always in the system.
  5. 5. Theory vs. Practice Labs should be theory free zones. Experimentation in methods and styles should have a free range in the edit rooms. Ideological criticism should be reserved for official critiques of finished work formally presented. Experimenters should always experiment. There’s a great deal of learning in both successes and failures. You need to experience both.
  6. 6. Don’t buy everything at once It’s easy to be wrong. It’s easy to be mislead by others. Only direct and personal experience will confirm whether or not items are really useful. You actually have to use things first to know what should come next. Turnkey installations will fail faster than ones built up over time.
  7. 7. Build it yourself Fancy, expensive, special purpose furniture can constrain playing around with equipment. Often there’s only one way to use it. Generic tables and home built counters allow more freedom and experimentation. Four coats of polyurethane and Ralph Lauren crackle-glaze can work wonders on 3/4” birch plywood.
  8. 8. Interpret faculty requests – donʼt take them literally With current revenues scarce individuals will seek funding for their personal projects. Usually they misdirect system flows with requests that are too specific and don’t fit in. Be respectful and supportive, but always think total system. Then turn it around and find ways for the system to allow them to work in another way. This personal funding is what school deans are for – get a grant.
  9. 9. Always experiment The best results come from direct experimentation. Research and skill building come from work and using the facilities.
  10. 10. Turn away gifts Gifts are always more trouble than they are worth. They don’t really fit in and usually are dead-end or end-of-life products to start with. Just say no thank you.
  11. 11. Computers are very labor intensive Computers don’t take care of themselves. You don’t need a lot of people, but without them nothing will work for long.
  12. 12. Donʼt buy more than you can afford to maintain It’s easier to get money up front than it is to get it later to keep everything running. Agree on how much your yearly budget and replacement account will be and get it in writing. Buy only what you can afford to maintain over time. It’s better to have a smaller system that works than a big bunch of stuff that no longer works. Think sustainable.
  13. 13. All media facilities are political Media facilities have a very real political function. The more honest you are about the reasons for the facility the greater the likelihood of success. Honesty and frankness will help in fulfilling the facilities role in the organization, but it’s much harder to do than it sounds.
  14. 14. Stop using the word digital A decade ago digital was a hot topic. It no longer is. Understand why it’s now 16:9, progressive, tapeless. Talk about capabilities, formats and workflow.
  15. 15. Try to understand the foot traffic How people move through the facility has tremendous impact on placement and design. Traffic brings both distractions, noise, and often fingers that don’t belong. Quiet areas are necessary for recording. Other areas will make noise with music and editing. They shouldn’t impinge on classroom spaces or each other. Visualize the entire day.
  16. 16. Whoʼs day is it? The day changes after faculty and staff leave. The student run part of the day is actually longer than the normal workday part. If you don’t know what’s going on during that time you’re lost.
  17. 17. Nothing is special In the old days media was a speciality item. It was expensive and rare. Today it’s cheap and every where. Most students will actually work on their own systems. Labs aren’t what they used to be. You can buy equipment from any one and it’s all the same. Low price is the determinate. And does it fit in.
  18. 18. Donʼt design for today Try thinking about 5 and 10 years from now. You will not be correct, so plan in buffer areas and the ability to have constant change. If you can not accommodate “the next big thing” and “the next big thing” after that one you have a museum to the past.
  19. 19. Thereʼs a long time between the drawings and the building You may have the perfect blueprints, but by the time it gets built and you move in a lot can happen. You don’t want opening day to feel like a 1970’s movie set. Don’t be trendy, don’t be cleaver. Think “little black dress”.
  20. 20. Watch people work It’s all about the user experience. You can’t discover it with forms or reports. There’s only one way to find out how it all gets used, that is - be there. The success of a facility is in the satisfaction of the users not some administrator in another building.
  21. 21. Make rooms look good The best method to protect the facility is to make it look nice. Users will spend a lot of time there so make it a desirable environment. Just as with people, the best looking get all the breaks - every thing will be treated better.
  22. 22. Go drinking with the architects Insight into each other’s process is faster to build with camaraderie. Work hard at having fun together. This is more important than you can imagine!
  23. 23. The biggest bang for the buck is lighting and paint Using inexpensive materials is OK if it doesn’t actually look cheap. Controlling mood and tone is the job of color and lighting – and you can change your mind.
  24. 24. The old client is not the new client Who is doing and using media is a lot different than it used to be. The fastest growing group of new users is in Social Science. The hard core film students all work in their rooms and most don’t need labs. The utility of media labs is not what you think it is nor what it will be.
  25. 25. No one has solved the problem of classroom vs. lab Some facilities are great labs, some are great classrooms, almost none are both. Just having computers in a room doesn’t mean it works. Hard core users may use multiple stations. Differences in skill-set levels plague most classes and make discussions and training difficult. Each has implications for facilities. Faculty want classrooms – students want labs.
  26. 26. Never underestimate the need for storage Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean you should throw it away. Supplies and equipment take up a lot of space and usually you don’t want to see it. If you don’t want to keep all of your light kits in the classroom they have to go somewhere and not bother people when you have to get them.
  27. 27. Only hire people who get along with each other Fancy names or credentials aren’t worth the trouble if you don’t want to be around that person. The only real problems are personnel problems, every thing else is the job. Having fun with the people you work with is the best environment of all.
  28. 28. No Magic Magic is any ceremony performed in the absence of reasonable knowledge as to cause and effect. Every one should understand how things work and why. No one should feel that it’s not understandable. This is very hard work.
  29. 29. The Good News Computers, cameras, decks, and most media equipment prices are getting lower and lower. The systems are remarkably flexible and provide support to a wide array of different users with the same system – photography, video editing, audio editing, graphics and web design. Convergence is real. This is economic democracy. This is the best time in history to buy media equipment.
  30. 30. The Bad News The federally mandated kill date for NTSC video and the forced move into digital formats has huge implications for equipment purchases that no one really understands. Almost everyone will be wrong. This is the worse time to purchase production equipment in decades for predictable outcomes. No one really knows where it all will go or where they even want to end up.
  31. 31. Video is Dead We’ve moved into a new realm that as yet doesn’t have a real name. It isn’t digital cinematography, though that’s very close. It’s the result of convergence, but not the original version that we all though we knew – that your computer thinks it’s your TV. No, this is a convergence between photography and video and it’s a surprise. Neither of them will remain unchanged. This new form will dominate over everything else.
  32. 32. John Gunther Manager for Advanced Media Hampshire College Amherst, MA 01002