Titans give digital the ol’ college try

Trojans bow 1st fully digital facility at any U.S. film school

Steven Spielberg will join longtime friends George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis for today’s opening of the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC.

Gov. Gray Davis is scheduled to join the trio at the event.

The 35,000-square-foot site at the USC School of Cinema-Television is billed at the first fully digital facility at any U.S. film school. Its arrival, following a three-year construction phase, comes as some traditionalists — including Spielberg, who has in the past eschewed digital filmmaking — are fretting about future generations ignoring traditional techniques.

Zemeckis downplayed industry cynicism, asserting that the center’s opening signals the maturation of digital technologies.

“These guys are the same ones who have been saying that LPs sound better than CDs,” Zemeckis told Daily Variety. “You can argue that until you’re blue in the face, but I don’t know anyone who’s still buying vinyl.

“Film as we have traditionally thought of is going to be different. But the continuum is man’s desire to tell stories around the campfire. The only thing that keeps changing is the campfire.”

The Zemeckis center, located across from the Shrine Auditorium, houses an array of non-linear production and post-production equipment, production stages, a 50-seat screening room and the USC student-run television station, Trojan Vision.

Gadgets galore

It boasts an expansive digital editing lab with 60 Avid Xpress DV systems. The new Xpress system features a high-performance IBM IntelliStation M-Pro workstation with Avid video editing software and digital distribution options for publishing to the Internet, CD and DVD.

Avid is one of more than a dozen companies that donated gear to the center. Several Hollywood luminaries also made contributions.

Lucas, like Zemeckis a USC alumnus, gave funds for the Akira Kurosawa digital soundstage, as well as a CGI/advanced media classroom. Spielberg helped fund both a digital studio honoring Stanley Kubrick and an additional CGI/advanced media classroom.

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