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Page 314 ï~~TEAR STUDIOS: STUDIO REPORT RICHARD M. POVALL lEAR STUDIOS " RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE DCC 135 TROY * NY * 12180-35(0 VOICE: 518/276-4784 FAX: 518/276-4780 INTERNET: POVALR@RPI.EDU Abstract The iEAR Studios at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are an attempt to build a unique creative environment - one that draws together technical tools for the creation of computer music, video, and computer imaging and animation. This report outlines the design philosophy behind the iEAR Studios, and in particular the experimental Integrated Suite. Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer In the Fall of 1991, the Arts Department at Rensselaer inaugurated a Master of Fine Arts program in Integrated Electronic Arts. The program combines theoretical, practical, and artistic aspects of Computer Music, Video Art, and Computer Imaging and Animation into a single pedagogical and artistic framework. In order to facilitate this program, the existing electronic arts studios underwent major renovation and expansion. The iEAR (Integrated Electronic Arts at Rensselaer) Studios now comprise: 0 undergraduate music workstations: Macintosh-based MIDI workstations with Ensoniq VFX synthesizers, Ensoniq EPS 16+ sampling synthesizers, and a variety of software. Each workstation also has a Tascam Portastudio for acoustic multitracking. 0 undergraduate graphics workstations: Amiga-based graphics workstation with digitization, color printing, and video output, with a variety of 2D and 3D software. 0 undergraduate video: a number of 1/2" (VHS and S-VHS) editing systems, VHS and S-VHS camcorders and related equipment 0 graduate computer music studio (see Appendix I) 0 graduate graphics workstations (see Appendix II) 0 graduate video studios and production equipment (see Appendix III) 0 the Integrated Suite (see below) () dedicated performance equipment (see Appendix IV) Design Philosophy The design philosophy behind the iEAR Studios deliberately makes both high end and "real world" equipment available to students and visiting artists. To this end, the studios are essentially realtime in nature, and contain many off-the-shelf commercial products such as Macintosh computers and corn 314
Page 315 ï~~mercial music synthesizers by Ensoniq, Yamaha, Digidesign and Ernt.. On the other hand, it is essential that students have access to state of the art equipment, and we have installed Grass Valley video editing with A/B/C roll, Grass Valley digital video effects (DPM700), 8 channels of digital audio (Digidesign's ProTools (in beta test)), and we are currently investigating graphics workstations from Silicon Graphics (Indigo), and digital videotape formats (DII or DIII). For a program in which artists are encouraged to work collaboratively as well as individually, existing studio design paradigms do not necessarily work very well. Commercial studios, not surprisingly, reflect the worlds from which those who have designed them, and those who work in them, come. The apartheid that exists, for examplc, in the traditional post production suite, is a function of the specialized individuals who go to making a finished, professional, product. This is the natural order of things, reflecting many realities of commercial life: time, efficiency, expertise, history, money. But it also reflects the way that the individual "experts" who are part of the production team have been trained - as specialists. Academic studios are often built along the same lines, but usually without the crushingly expensive online finishing suites. Electronic musicians and composers within an artistic or academic environment are unlikely to have access to more than the most basic video or computer imaging capabilities, and visual artists are unlikely to have access to more than the most meager audio resources. A decision was made at an early stage to duplicate as much equipment as possible in the various studios, and to have another set of the same equipment available as dedicated performance equipment. This supports easy transportability of files from studio to studio, and will allow for easy file sharing once the studio network is in place. The dedicated performance equipment is a specific response to the pedagogical design of the MFA program, the core of which is dissemination and performance. Students are required to use live elements in at least some of their work, rather than just working with tape as an output medium, and they perform with live electronics on a regular basis both on and off the campus. The Integrated Suite iEAR's Integrated Suite comprises the Integrated Studio, a production studio/black box performance laboratory, and an offline editing room. The Integrated Studio, the intellectual and artistic core of the iEAR Studios, takes an entirely experimental approach to combining high end music, video, and graphics work areas. Each work area is a complete studio in its own right, but all are capable of speaking to one another, and all can share timing and data information as far as current technology allows. It is possible in this studio for one, two, or three artists to be working simultaneously, and collaboratively, on a project using entirely integrated hardware and software, and working with elemental materials, rather than with finished, predefined products - a model that moves significantly away from existing commercial or non-commercial paradigms. In designing this studio, we constantly hit the same barrier: equipment designed for a traditional post production environment was just not suitable or flexible enough to work in an environment where production and post production become one and the same. We needed a large audio mixer that could accommodate the requirements of a traditional analog and digital audio workroom, and we needed it with the ability to be directly slaved, in a configuration known as audio follow video, to the Grass Valley video editor. Soundcraft was ultimately persuaded -- after much questioning and disbelief - to custom fit a series 6000 board, a mixing console considerably more sophisticated than those usually found in online suites, with the audio follow video capability. The company does, of course, offer mixers with audio follow video as a standard option, but only on its less sophisticated, less flexible models. A problem we are still grappling with, in the limited space we have available in the control room, is just where the "center of attention" really is. Avoiding a proliferation of video monitors and stereo audio monitors is very hard, yet very undesirable from many viewpoints; but ultimately this is the direction we may have to take. If there are any brilliant alternative 315
Page 316 ï~~design concepts out there, we would love to hear them. In its first design incarnation, the video editing station has become the focal point, with near field stereo audio monitors placed on either side of the 19" video program monitor. This is fine for many purposes, particularly if there is only one person working in the room, and everything is being controlled by the video editor. It is less than ideal if a major live mix is being performed, or if a composer is performing complex tasks at the computer. Then the center of the stereo field needs to be available to him or her, as does the video signal. Is the answer to provide an additional stereo monitoring setup? Probably not, but it may be the only compromise available. Because of the long, narrow shape of the room, it is also very difficult to provide audio monitoring other than near field. Near field monitoring has significant drawbacks when used for experimental music- the lack of bass response, and the lack of an ability to gauge how the sound will work in a larger environment are major problems. Compounding this, the level of mechanical noise in the room is at present intolerable. High end video equipment has a proliferation of fans, as do all the computers and large hard drives in the room. Critical listening is almost impossible. At the time of writing, we are pursuing two solutions to this problem: as much of the "noisy" equipment as possible is being moved into an adjoining machine room that is sound isolated from the control room; and we are investigating the possibility of mounting a pair of large speakers, and a video monitor in the production studio so that critical listening can take place in a large, quiet room that comes closer to a performance space. With the reduced noise level in the control room, critical listening in that space should also be much improved. Usage Patterns As of May 1992, the Integrated Studio has been in use for just five months. According to the rules of Murphy's Studio Law, in which the newer and more expensive the equipment, the more it breaks down, there have been a significant number of occasions in which at least one major piece of equipment has been down, often crippling key parts of this interdependent studio. The DPM700, the Grass Valley Digital Video Effect Generator is a brand new model, and has had many teething problems (all fixed very quickly and efficiently by Grass Valley), and Digidesign's 8-channel version of ProTools, still in beta release, has also had some significant problems, mostly software related, and almost all of which were fixed in later releases. Despite that, students were able to complete major projects, and we began to see the kind of use of the equipment that we originally envisioned in its design. At least four collaborative projects have taken place, with a composer and a visual artist working together on a finished product, working simultaneously on sound and image in the Integrated Studio, as well as working separately in each of the specialized studios. There was at least one project in which one person "did it all", producing a video using digital audio stripped from his original field footage, processed, and mixed live from 5 channels of digital audio, under control of the video editor. Summary Even after such a short time, it is quite clear that there are extraordinary advantages in this unique studio design - and unique problems. The ultimate test, however, is the final product that comes out of the studio. Will we indeed see new art forms emerging from this facility? On the evidence to date, there is a strong possibility that artists will learn to work in entirely new ways, and produce work that expresses a level of understanding of the different media involved far beyond the norm, and that collaborations between artists will be far more informed and truly collaborative in nature. It will take a few years to observe patterns~ of use, and understand how such a facility can best be used, and, as the technology moves closer and closer towards an all digital future, the technologies themselves will become increasingly integrated, allowing the development of new languages by artists trained to deal with multiple media. 316
Page 317 ï~~Appendix Is Graduate Computer Music Equipment (includes Integrated Studio) " Macintosh lix Â~ 21" monochrome monitor " SampleCell w/ 8 Meg Â~ Microtech CD-ROM * Digidesign ProTools (4 channel system) " Pacific Coast Technologies 2GByte SCSI Drive " Pacific Coast Technologies 600MByte SCSI Drive " Microtech 600MByte SCSI Drive * Panasonic SV3700 DAT " Sony TCD-D3 Walkman DAT " Tascam DAT recorder " Sony 500ES DAT recorder " Nakamichi MR-1 cassette recorders (2) " Otari 5050B 8-track recorder " dbx noise reduction " Tascam 401 CD players (2) w/digital out " numerous other cassette machines " Ensoniq EPS 16+ sampling synthesizer " Ensoniq VFX synthesizer Â~ Yamaha TG77 synthesizer Â~ Proteus 2 synthesizer Â~ J L Cooper Synapse MIDI switcher " Studio 3 MIDI interface " KAT DrumKat DK4 percussion controller " Yamaha SPXI000 multi processor " Yamaha SPX900 multi processor " Lexicon LXP-15 multi processor " Lexicon PCM70 multi processor " Roland CP40 pitch to MIDI converter " Symetrix 525 compressor/expanders (4) " Symetrix SX200 quad headphone amplifier/driver " Fostex 6301BEAV powered monitor " AKG 240M headphones " JVC L-A11 turntable " Stanton 310B phono premplifier " Ampex ATR-700 1/2 track ATR Soundcraft 6000 48x8x2 console Tascam M-2516 MIDI mixing console Mitsubishi xx VHS VCR Sony 12" Trinitron monitor TT patch bays JBL 4410 studio monitors Tannoy PBM 8 monitors Crown DC 300A II amplifiers (2) QSC 1100 amplifiers (4) Opcode Studio Vision Opcode Max Opcode Galaxy Plus Editors Opcode MIDI system Digidesign TurboSynth Digidesign ProDeck Digidesign Pro Edit Coda Finale Sound Hack Digidesign SampleCell Editor DATa other non-MIDI software Appendix II: Graduate Graphics Workstations " Commodore Amiga 500 (2) (upgraded) " Commodore Amiga 1000 " Commodore 2000C (3) * Commodore 3000 (3) " GVP Impact 68030 accellerator + SCSI + RAM (2) " Colorburst 24-bit display " HamE Plus 24-but display " Impulse FireCracker 24 bit display card * Silicon Graphics Iris workstations (scheduled 92/93) " Macintosh Quadra 950 (2) (92/93) " NewTek Video Toaster (2) " ICD Flicker Free Video (23 " Syquest SQ555 44MByte removable cartridge drive (6) " Quantum 105MByte SCSI Drive (2) " Seagate 676 MByte SCSI drive " NewTek DigiView digitizer " Panasonic TR-930B NTSC monitor " Panasonic WV-1410 CCTV camera " DPS Personal TBC " lnnovision Broadcast Titler " Animation Station " Axiom Pixel 3D " Shereff Systems Cinnamon Toaster Fonts " Impuse Imagine " GVP Scala " ASDG Inc. Art Department Professional * Byte by Byte Sculpt 4D Appendix III: Graduate Video Studios (includes Integrated Studio) " Sony EVO-9800 Hi8 recorder " Sony VO-9800 3/4" recorder (2) " Sony VO-9850 3/4" recorder (2) " Sony VO-9600 3/4"SP recorder " Panasonic AG-7650 S-VHS player " GVG VPE-131 Production Editor " GVG DPM700 digital video effects generator " GVG 110 Production Switcher " Dubner 20K character generator " Tektronix 1740 waveform monitor/ vectorscope " Tektronix 1720/30 waveform monitor / vectorscope () * FORA FA-310 time base correctors (3) " Sony PVM-2030 monitor 3) " Sony PVM-2530 monitor 0) " studio cameras by Sony and JVC " Bogen tripods " various lighting kits Fast Forward SMF'TE generator/reader Appendix IV: Dedicated Performance Equipment /Spaces Ensoniq VFX synthesizer Ensoniq EPS sampling synthesizer Yamaha TG77 synthesizer Proteus 2 sample player * Mackie 1604 mixer * AKG 460 microphones " Electro Voice microphones * Nady 650 FM microphone " Microphone stands " Panasonic WJ-MX-12 video switcher/processor " Portable lighting " Sony CCD-V5000 Hi8 camcorder (2) " Sony EVO-9100 Hi8 camcorder (3) 317