At the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University, students can pursue studies in Digital Filmmaking, Photography, Audio Production and 3D Animation in a setting that honors the tried-and-true traditions of moviemaking while utilizing the newest technology. Beginning in high school, students can receive instruction at the Center from working professionals and in three separate locations: Boston, Prague and the Washington, D.C. campus, opened in 2007.
Executive director Bob Daniels recently took the time to answer a few of MovieMaker’s questions about CDIABU’s advancements and the opportunities it presents to students—including a way to make media that matters and Independent European adventures.
Mallory Potosky (MM): Moviemaking has evolved greatly since the Lumiere brothers first began shooting in the early 1900s—the biggest evolution being the acceptance of digital moviemaking equipment. How does the Center for Digital Imaging Arts maintain those classic moviemaking techniques established so long ago while adapting to the current conditions and equipment available for digital moviemaking?
Bob Daniels (BD): We call our program “Digital Filmmaking” because, while we use the latest in video technology, we’re still shooting and editing in a filmic tradition. Of course, technological and artistic innovation have been part of filmmaking since the beginning; silent films gave way to talkies, black and white to color, standard screen to Cinemascope and now, with computers, Internet multimedia. We have always stood on the shoulders of those who have gone before. While technology evolves and our art form evolves with it, storytelling has always been at its foundation, and storytelling is as old—or older—than the cave paintings at Lascaux and Altimira. Much of the language of film came out of the magic lantern shows of the late 1800s and developed rapidly through the early history of filmmaking and is just as present today with its digital incarnation. Our students’ education, while using the latest digital technology, is firmly based in that language of film.
MM: Animation has evolved in much the same way that moviemaking in general has evolved, with people no longer as attracted to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as they are to Finding Nemo. And each year, the technology seems to evolve with more detailed video games and animated films pushing the boundaries of what people previously thought was impossible. How are students expected to keep up and how does CDIA help them to?
BD: It’s very hard in this day and age, with new software and hardware coming out every second, to keep up with the trends. However, computer animation professionals are still a relatively small and well-organized group of individuals that share knowledge and techniques.
Even though the media tools keep getting more advanced and technically driven, industry professionals still adhere to the traditions of the masters before them. With almost any employer in the film and video game industry they want good ideas, the ability to communicate those ideas, and an understanding of the principles that drive the industry. The technical side of things, while still important to have a solid understanding of, comes later.
Both the traditional and computer savvy side of the spectrum are covered in the courses at CDIA. We offer our students the resources that enable them to keep up with the current and future trends—whether technical or process oriented—by bringing in industry professionals for special training sessions, keeping an updated curriculum and introducing new software. We also make sure that our students join web forum discussion groups related to the field and are active in the online community of 3D artists and animators. We want our students to be trendsetters and share what they’ve learned.
MM: Aside from the campuses in Washington, D.C. and Boston, CDIA hosts two-four week photography and digital moviemaking workshops in Prague. What was it that made the school choose this city as its overseas partner?
BD: Part of the allure of Prague is that, while it’s one of Europe’s most historic and greatest cultural capitals, its domination by the Nazis and the Soviets kept it out of contact with most of the rest of the world for half a century. Prague has a long and celebrated artistic history from renaissance and baroque visual arts, architecture and music to cutting-edge 20th-century graphics and film. Our students have the opportunity to discover this fantastic place and draw on these great cultural resources. Today’s Prague is one of Europe’s most exciting cities and a wonderful place to make films and photographs.
MM: Can you talk a little about the different tracks that are available to students studying in Prague?
BD: Three tracks are available: Beginner Intensive, Intermediate and Independent.
The two-week Beginner Intensive track takes you through camera basics, using the backdrop of Prague to shoot assignments. For those who finish the Beginner Intensive or already have similar experience, the Intermediate track allows participants to delve deeper into shooting internationally on a more independent basis, while still benefiting from ongoing instructor support. The Independent track is available for participants wanting to spend two or four weeks in Prague on their own projects. Instructors are made available to concept project ideas, discuss progress and review work.
This is a hands-on intensive workshop where students work internationally, exploring and documenting one of Europe’s most beautiful and historic cultural capitals. Taking full advantage of the workshop location and hard-to-get access to many of the city’s cultural treasures, students learn to tell this city’s stories and develop the ability to create deeper visual essays about any location. Instructors include top North American and Czech photographers, as well as guest lecturers on Prague’s history, art, architecture and contemporary life. As students get to know Prague, instructors get to know them through daily one-on-one reviews of their work and group presentations.
MM: As another alternative to the regular digital moviemaking track, the school offers high school students the opportunity to begin their studies early—with two-week summer programs. How does this help interested students prepare for further education in moviemaking?
BD: Our high school program gives students a chance to experience, in a two-week format, each of the areas we offer certificate programs in: Digital Filmmaking, Photography, Audio Production, 3D Animation and Graphic and Web Design. For many high school students this is a unique opportunity for them to express themselves creatively with digital media. Students build confidence as communicators and develop valuable skills while building a portfolio of their work that can later be used for college admissions.
MM: Finally, can you describe one of the other unique opportunities at CDIA: The Practicum. To what end does the Practicum serve both the student and the community at large?
BD: We feel that along with people mastering the craft and artistic skills in their area of choice, it’s important for them to use what they’ve learned making media that really matters to them and the community.
Every student who completes a certificate program with CDIABU has the opportunity to participate in the Practicum. This experience provides our students with a hands-on work experience with a non-profit organization. It’s a dynamic opportunity—allowing students to complete a real-world project while developing a network and a portfolio that will serve them professionally. Embracing the power of digital technology, the CDIABU Practicum encourages our students to innovate and to inspire.
At CDIABU, we’re committed to making media that matters. The Practicum extends locally, globally and online, helping nonprofit organizations benefit from the impact and reach of digital media. Under the guidance of faculty advisors, our students provide video, digital photography, web and print design, 3D animation and audio production services in partnership with organizations that are working to make a difference around the world. Our faculty works closely with the non-profit community to explore the role that digital media plays in creating networks, raising awareness and mobilizing resources. Practicum is the heart of our organization.
For more information on any of the programs described above, or any of the other many opportunities available through CDIABU, visit www.cdiabu.com.