Projection degree survey


CB Mods
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
Jul 16, 2005
Las Vegas
This is a survey of various video production programs, created as an effort to assist those interested in this career path. I have created a series of ten open ended questions which I have asked various universities to answer in all honesty about their programs. By responding, they understood to be granting permission to share the entirety of their answers on the forum. I am posting this with numbered questions and answers, who responded, and from which school. It will be continually updated as I receive more responses.

1.Give a brief introduction about your program in regards to video for theater. You can include what types of degrees, when the program started, and whatever you feel is relevant.

2.What is the philosophy behind the program? Pure design, equipment based, or something else?

3.What is the benefit of learning in a program like yours as opposed to learning on the job or getting a degree in a related field such as graphic/motion design?

4.What opportunities do the students have outside of the classroom academically and professionally? Do you have any partnerships with outside entities?

5.What type of equipment do the students train on? Please include capture/creation, media servers and other back-end, and projectors or other display elements.

6.Do you train the students in multiple disciplines? Will they only be able to work in theater or will the skills easily transfer to corporate presentations, AV install, film production, etc.?

7.What sets your school apart from other programs?

8.Where are some of your graduates now employed? Do you offer assistance in placement or career councelling?

9.Is there anything else you would like to share about your program? Please include links where students can get more information.

10.If a student couldn’t, for whatever reason, be a part of your program, what would be your next suggestion?

Yale, School of Drama
1.Yale school of drama offers an MFA with a projection concentration within the context of the Design Department. It started two years ago, I <Wendall Harrington> will graduate my first MFAs in 2013.

2.Design based. The Yale program is significant as all designers will study sets, light, and costumes in their time at Yale as well as various technical aspects but the emphasis is on dramaturgy and the support of the work at hand.

3.If you want to make motion, study motion; if you want to make theatre, that is entirely another beast all together. The process of breaking down a play an opera or a ballet is the most important skill one can get, all the graphics knowledge wont make you a theatre artist, the program at Yale, can.

4.The curriculum is heavily production based; that is, the students are making work for paying audiences and collaboration both with their peers as well as professional directors and designers at the Yale Rep.
I can place my students in internships but so far we haven’t found the time in our busy schedule. My experience is that Yale designers continue to work with their peers long after graduation. Lasting creative relationships are formed, as well as the exposure to Master teachers who will likely employ them after they have graduated.

5.The students study motion graphic with David Biedny and work on projects in various softwares. They work with Watchout, Qlab, and Isadora as programming tools and we are loooking into a bunch of VJ software just to know what’s out there. There are collaborations with the sound designers in MAX ableton, I probably forgot something as I don’t teach any hardware...but they do build content and program shows.

6.Since I have worked in media of all kinds I encourage thinking about all sorts of production possibilities, my theory is a good story teller is a good story teller, venue is unimportant. As for the tech aspects, we have another part of the school which is TD&P, that is more technical theatre based. Those students who we, as designers, collaborate with, can do just about anything anywhere. You might want to reach out to Erich Bolton who teaches the more tech stuff at Yale. <I will be doing so for clarification>

7.For one thing, the master teachers, Ming Cho Lee, Jennifer Tipton, Jane Greenwood. They are themselves the history of theatrical design, and are vital, wise and generous. By studying all the disciplines to make a total theatre artist, the goal is not to make what I call vidiots, who can't collaborate with humans on stage. We are preparing students for live events, live music, live theatre, ballet, etc and having ample time in the theatre collaborating as an assistant, a design or as a programmer, is real world experience, not a textbook on tech, the real thing, nothing can replace experience.

8.I have no projection graduates <yet>, if I did, I could have given them a million jobs this summer that I can't do myself! I imagine there is something at Yale that is career councelling, but if you have a Yale MFA, and there is work in the world, and you know how to handle yourself, you will be employed.

The opportunites at Yale are boundless with potential for collaborating with the music school, the art school, and all the other aspects of the university. Even in the last two years we have started collaborating and making work outside the Theatre school and about to enter in to a collaboration with the School of Management. There is just no place like it, and of course there is me, Wendall Harrington ! ;-)

10.Depends on the students interests, Cal Arts has an excellent program, with lots of animation and video art
and UT texas at Ausin, also has a good new program with access to an excellent university. If you can't go to school, apprentice yourself to artists you admire, and if you are intrested in theatre, give yourself a play to read and design every month, and try and get someone smart to critique it. See everything you can keep a note book record your thoughts. BE CURIOUS, that s how you learn.

Addendum by Erich Bolton: A simple response to the question of what equipment our students have the ability to learn is: just about anything we can get a hold of, the more detailed answer follows. For production use we are primarily using Watchout 5, but Isadora and QLab do come up on occasion. In the Projection Engineering classes, all three of those programs are taught, but to expand on the “anything” response earlier, I am constantly trying to incorporate more equipment. This year we added PRG’s MBox media server and an in-depth look at Apple’s Quartz Composer. On the list for next year is Coolux Medias Pandoras Box, and possibly a session or two with the Hippo.

For what we do production wise Watchout, Isadora and QLab work very well, but we realize that once people leave they will run into systems that are not those, and as such in classes I try to talk about and have hands on experience with as many different systems as possible. Knowing full well that someone won’t and can’t be an expert in all systems when they leave, but that they will have been exposed to the systems and have a general understanding of what the benefits of each system are and why one should be used over another in a particular situation.

On the bigger picture side of things, I also teach a control systems class that exposes the students not only to video/projection equipment but how the equipment interacts with other production systems. The class touches on everything from motion activated systems to timeline based synchronization, or sharing position data between systems. Next year we will be including some natural user interfacing with the Microsoft Kinect and our existing systems with a goal of eventually being able to incorporate into our productions, but for the time being as a teaching tool and discovery process.

Virtually everything that we teach while its immediate purpose is geared toward theater is relevant in any other industry. The lectures on video formats and signal distribution apply to all video systems, even the ones we don’t use. There are projects that address other industries as well: engineering a video system for a large scale outdoor event/projection mapping, LED mapped systems, corporate events focusing on redundancy of systems to name a few.

While we have limited resources out goal is to try to have as wide a range of equipment as possible, from small LCD and DLP projectors, to mid-range LCD and high end DLP projectors, the more varied type of equipment that our students can be exposed to the better prepared they will be to work with new and different technology once they leave.
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CB Mods
Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
Jul 16, 2005
Las Vegas
1.CalArts offers a three-year MFA program in the Theatre School currently called Video for Performance. I am the Head of the program, Pablo Molina teaches our technology/software classes, and Chi-Wang Yang teaches along with me in our Seminar class and serves as a Production Mentor. Also open to our students is the opportunity to apply to CalArts' Integrated Media Program, which accepts students from all schools at the Institute.

2.Our program is generative-artist-oriented. We do teach design and technology, and have a strong emphasis on collaboration, but the focus is idea-driven, forward-looking, and aims to teach the skills required for emerging fields even more than extant fields. The program explores four primary areas of study that all use moving imagery and explore contemporary notions of liveness: integrating video in performance (ie, theatre, dance, opera, concerts, etc); interactive installation and public art; architectural projection; and “living room interactive”, which is a broad term for new forms of interactive, digital storytelling that use social networking, advanced in-home entertainment technologies, and hybrid cinematic/video game techniques to activate new spaces of communication and inter-personal connectedness through shared stories and entertainment experiences.

3.Learning on the job or in skills-oriented programs are certainly worthwhile experiences, but different from an artistically-oriented graduate program. At CalArts we offer such things as: artistic mentorship, intellectual explorations of media theory, practical production experiences, and most of all, ample room for experimentation, constructive critique, and personal/artistic growth in an environment full of equally creative collaborators and peers.

4.We have evolving partnerships with a variety of outside entities, for example: the CalArts Center for New Performance, which is a professional producing entity within the CalArts structure, the Disney Blue Sky Initiative, which allows a small group of students to develop potential projects with themed entertainment professionals, as well as a variety of internships and apprenticeships. However, historically most students find their relationships within the Institute to be the most rewarding ongoing professional connections, as many of our students from a variety of disciplines continue working together on a professional level after they complete the program.

5.We have ongoing relationships with the developers of Green Hippo, Isadora, and Watchout (Show Sage). Each has donated licenses and/or media servers to CalArts for use by our students. We also have a a computer lab that is equipped with a variety of post-production tools, including Final Cut, After Effects, 3ds Max, Maya, Cinema 4d, and MaxMSP/Jitter, among others. We have an array of projection and display equipment, ranging from the highly portable to the professional. In addition, we own a variety of camera equipment and film production tools appropriate for both cinematic image capture and live theatrical applications.

6.CalArts believes in an integrated approach to art practice and this program aims to be a leader in this mission.

7.Our program takes a broad approach to the field. We do not limit the scope of our teaching or learning to theatre alone. As head of the program, my background is in video installation and filmmaking, but my professional artistic practice and interests range well beyond these areas. I believe that successful artists in the digital age must have a broad understanding of how moving imagery integrates in our cultural activities and communication. Our philosophy is that it is essential that students do not focus only on theatre during their graduate-level education, as the skills required for innovation in the field of theatre require a broader course of study.

8.As of May 2012, we have one MFA class of two students that has completed the program. Both are employed in the field as working artists/designers.

9.Programs | School of Theater

Peter Flaherty to Head Video for Performance Program at CalArts | CalArts

10.Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and UT Austin all have quality programs. Each is different in its approach and could be appropriate for the right students. Its a small world in this field. As our programs develop, hopefully we will all be able to share resources and get the right students to the right places. There's a lot of creativity and talent out there.

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