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Wiring for Creative Arts Education, Part 1

Jul 8, 2010 9:20 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

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Wiring for Creative Arts Education, Part 2
For creative art students at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, gone are the days when recording engineers had to learn on the job. ...

Next-generation recording artists and engineers have a place to learn their craft with all the latest gear at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College Center for Creative Arts. Technical Support Manager Mark Baker is going to outline the facility for us and explore the extensive Aviom digital network that ties it all together.

Mark, it’s great to have you with me here on the SVC podcast and Cuyahoga Community College really got into to what looks like a very sophisticated situation, as far as mixing and audio networking and the training in how to do those things, but tell me a little bit about the community college first.
Well, Cuyahoga Community College is in Northeast Ohio; it’s actually in the Cleveland area in what is called Cuyahoga County, which is home to Cleveland. We have three main campuses—West, East and Metro—and they’re approximately 20 miles a part and they approximately have, at any given point, up to about 30,000 students full- and part-time. [Timestamp: 1:23]

All right, well that sounds like a thriving place. Yeah, it’s actually one of the largest community colleges in Ohio. I am not sure about the rest of the nation, but the college has been around since the 60s and is pretty well regarded in Northeast Ohio as a large educator, affordable pricing and such, so it’s quite popular. [Timestamp: 1:44]

And it looks like they got into a very big construction project on the Center for Creative Arts. When did all that happen? Well, the actual program itself started in 2001, in January of 2001, and went online in the fall semester, September of 2001. We had a series of smaller studios, which we quickly outgrew, and unbeknownst to us at the time, about four or five years ago, they started coming up with an idea for a media arts—or more appropriately, a creative arts program—to be headed by a dean. And they formulated this plan about maybe three years ago and they brought us in March of 2008, [which] was when they actually broke ground for the building and that’s when the principals—Tommy Wiggins, who is program director—myself, and a few other individuals that are on our staff were brought in when the actual building construction started to start supporting the infrastructure and designing it. [Timestamp: 2:45]

OK, and they’ve got a very sophisticated audio networking situation there. You’re teaching students recording and mixing. What’s the overall course of study for students coming in there?
The recording arts program is designed to be an associate of applied sciences degree. You have to take approximately 72 credit hours, so it’s about two and a half years to get through the full program with the internship. You have to have basic Math and English skills to get in, but we cover basic audio, electronics, recording theory, digital audio mixing, ProTool certification, small business management, music business, live sound, and audio for video for our media arts department. [Timestamp: 3:25]

Well, it sounds like they’re very well-trained and I just can’t imagine if when I was in college we would had had a facility like this and a training program like this; I could only dream of how better prepared I would have been. I spent about 26-27 years in broadcast TV production and they just threw me in on the fly. I had no previous experience and just learned on the job, making a lot of mistakes. This would have been just absolutely fantastic. So what kind of facilities do they have there at the center?
[…] We have two main recording studios that are approximately 4000 square foot. One contains a SSL Duality, which is brand new, a 48-channel. It’s really state-of-the-art because it acts as a controller and an analog workflow source that is great for teaching the students. Our second room contains a vintage, if you want to call it, it’s Trident S-80B 32-channel by 24 bus with a huge amount of offboard gear. As far as the rest of the facility goes, we decided that instead of building four main studios, we actually have two main studios, and then we also have five production suites. Each production suite is smaller, maybe 200 square feet to 300 square feet each. Two of these have tracking rooms that are attached; two are actually surround rooms—two separate rooms; and then we also have a mastering suite, which is pretty high-end. We really put a lot of money into that. We’re quite proud of it. But the production suites all have different consoles. We have Toft consoles, a Sony DMX R100, we have a TL Audio M4, we have a Control 24 Work Surface, and also the mastering suite has its own complement of very exclusive gear. As far as the rooms are concerned though, it’s really an advantage to us because we can put more people in more rooms to get, a) more experience on different types of consoles, and b) totally enable people to record larger projects at the same time. We’re quite proud of the setup. We also have a mini-technology lab, which is 18 work individual stations, Mac based. We have a secondary room that is a Pro Tools training lab with 16 Pro Tools work stations. Both of these rooms have a small winger isolation booth built into them—a 6’x9’ isolation booth so a small drum kick could go in there or an ensemble or something of that nature so they can actually still get recording time up there. Also we have a black box theater, which is in a multipurpose, basically, black box—no pun intended. It’s about, approximately, 4,500 square feet that we can host any number of types of shows from a dance ensemble to a rock concert to video and television taping functions. It also can function as a green screen production theater for our video department. [Timestamp: 6:31]

OK, [it’s] tremendous facility. You’ve got all these different and all these different rooms. Now how is all that connected together?
When we came up with the initial design, I had actually gone to a place called the Expression Center, which is in California, and also the Idea Center, or Ideastream Center, which is based in Cleveland. When I went into the rooms, I noticed that they had these panels that would connect to anywhere and so I brought that idea back and basically we whittled it down to two types of production panels, as we call it. We had a production panel “1” and a production panel “2.” [For] production panel “1”, we decided would have two COM lines, two phone lines, six Cat-6 high lines, video BNC times two. We had two fiber lines-in and out both ways. We had four TI lines for audio or any other purpose for that matter. We had two SMPTE lines—in and out—and we also had two AES/EBU lines—one in, one out. On the smaller production panel, we had one communication line, four TI lines for audio, three Cat-6 connections, RJ-45s, two video, and two SMPTE. The idea was that all these panels are dispersed within four floors of the building. The building is more or less spread out, the ground level is primarily recording arts, the first floor is a Wi-Fi café and also administrative offices, but the second and third floors contain media arts and also more music classes and our mini-lab and such. So what we decided to do was if we wanted to get signals from anywhere to anywhere by a copper or another system like Cat-5 or Cat-6, we were able to do this quite easily. Everything ties back to our machine room on the lower level or the sub level. So at this point, what we have is essentially [is] 288 Cat-6 TI lines around the building, we have 56 fiber TIs, we have 60 video TI lines, 208 audio TI lines, and 52 SMPTE—in and outs. So that was the primary way that we were getting signal. So in other words we were going to run a video session in any particular room or we can disperse information via the machine room to anywhere else in the house. [Timestamp: 8:52]

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