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New digital studio benefits several departments

By Sally Jongsma

Graphic design students Elbert Bakker and Heather Link confer with alums Randy Groen and Kevin Wassenaar, employees at Central Minnesota Christian School, about a website the students are developing for the school as part of a service-learning project.

Graphic design students Elbert Bakker and Heather Link confer with alums Randy Groen and Kevin Wassenaar, employees at Central Minnesota Christian School, about a website the students are developing for the school as part of a service-learning project.

Even after fall classes had started, the tweaking continued in the new digital media studio in the lower level of the computer center. Equipped with both Macs and PCs, loaded with AVID video editing software, After Effects animation software, and Sibelius music composition software, the facility will host classes in video production, graphic design, digital sound, and technology for educators. The lab makes possible a new video production program in the communication department and the teaching of animation in the art department.

Sitting in the new studio, Art Professor David Versluis explains, “It is fairly unique to have a cross-platform lab. Normally Macs and PCs are in separate areas.” But this arrangement is ideal for his classes. Since all computers run the same software, his students learn to work on both types of computers, better preparing them for diverse work environments when they graduate.

“It might make more headaches for Rich, though,” Versluis says with a grin and a glance at Rich Haan from computer services, who is working on a glitch in the projection system. Haan smiles a slow warm smile and replies, “It’s fun.”

That kind of cooperation and spirit of service are a big part of the story behind the studio, says Communication Professor Mark Volkers. Volkers, a faculty member who will use the studio, credits the maintenance and computer services departments with helping make this lab into what he believes is one of the top college and university digital multi-media labs in the nation. Volkers and Versluis worked closely with staff cabinet maker Paul Kroese in designing a custom-made teaching podium that feeds all of the media through a finely-crafted wood structure, putting control at the instructor’s fingertips with the flip of a few switches.

Staff electrician Brian Mellema customized the wiring to allow the instructors to set up the stations based on what they believe works best for teaching, not where it was easiest to plug things in. He also installed a new lighting system that gives instructors control over the amount and type of light that is most appropriate for computer-focused work.

Computer services staff pulled miles of Ethernet cable, ordered and installed the computers and software, and hooked up all of the pieces that will make the studio an efficient, practical, and state-of-the-art space for learning.

The thing that puts the studio in the “one of the top in the country” category is the new multi-media server that connects all of the technology in the room.

“There are schools with more media stations than we have, but most don’t have them networked,” says Volkers. Networking makes a huge difference. Students in video production or graphic design or composition class do not have to store their work on a computer and use only that computer—when it is available—when they need to work. Instead they can access their file from any of the stations at any time. What is more, Versluis and Volkers can bring up samples of any student’s work and put it on the screen at the front of the room for class interaction and discussion. Or Volkers can load an hour’s worth of film footage for classroom instruction in one hour instead of ten hours—one hour for each machine plus one for the instructor’s station. And all work is backed-up daily.