Professional and fledgling filmmakers will get a high-tech night school in the San Fernando Valley later this year when IBM and UCLA Extension debut com puter-equipped classrooms at Universal City.
The planned "media lab" will specialize in applying computers and digital technology to the film and television industries. Courses--now in the planning stage--will focus on everything from production accounting to sound editing.
These classes will be offered as part of an overall curriculum when UCLA Extension opens 14 classrooms in the Universal CityWalk, a four-block-long thoroughfare of mainly shops and restaurants being constructed adjacent to the Universal Studios Tour.
"Typically, more than half our students are professionals working in the industry who want to upgrade their skills," said Charles Swartz, who oversees UCLA Extension's department of entertainment studies and performing arts. "They'll find it more convenient to come to Universal rather than the UCLA campus."
Beginning filmmakers can also enroll. The lab is expected to feature a computer system with enough workstations to accommodate 30 people at a time. The system--with an estimated worth of more than $700,000--will provide color displays, touch-screen displays, interactive video and something called an M-Motion Video Adapter/A card.
Plainly put, this technology aims to make filmmakers more productive, whether they are computing a production company's payroll or laying narration over wildlife footage.
For instance, editors often work with reels of film, cutting and splicing together a finished movie. It can be a cumbersome process. With digital technology, all the footage can be stored in a computer's memory. Various scenes can be called up on a video screen, cut, spliced together, switched around--and all of this can be done in seconds by typing on a keyboard. Special effects can also be added.
"From a lay person's point of view, what it does is cut away the labor activities and frees the industry to concentrate on the creative activity," said Ronnie Rubin, an entertainment studies department official. "It allows the machine to do the drudgery."
Some of this technology is already in use. Computerized animation, for instance, is now common.
IBM, for its part, is lending the equipment to UCLA Extension in hopes of getting some valuable feedback. As it seeks to create a new market for entertainment-related computer hardware, the troubled corporation wants to know exactly what the industry needs.
"We'll get suggestions: 'It would be wonderful if you could do this or do that,' " said Justin Fishbein, an IBM spokesman. "That information will be helpful to our scientists and engineers."
The relationship between UCLA and IBM dates back to 1956 when the two entered into a joint project--the Western Data Processing Center. More recently, IBM technology has been used in the university's science and engineering schools.
Software companies are also being invited to participate in this most recent venture as IBM searches for appropriate programs for its computers. The 25,000-square-foot UCLA Extension center at Universal CityWalk is scheduled to open this month.
During the spring, the entertainment studies department will hold three open houses to showcase its new technology and take suggestions on which types of classes should be offered.
"I can't wait to get my hands on the equipment and see what it can do," said Jim Bissell, who teaches for UCLA Extension and worked on production design for "E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and "The Rocketeer," among other films. "Where this technology is going to lead us is a big question in my mind. Truthfully, I have no idea. It requires getting our hands on the equipment and starting to play."