Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Creative Media Developments

Over the last 6-9 months the CiCS creative media facilities have expanded at quite a considerable rate. A year ago we only had a creative media room, a small loanable equipment stock and two members of staff. Today we have a good size stock of loanable equipment, three members of staff and a 24/7 edit suite.

Edit Suite
The new edit suite is (I believe) the first of its kind at the University of Sheffield. The suite contains 5 iMac computers with media editing applications such as iLife suite andAudacity. The computers have been set up to allow users to log on via LDAP authentication. This is nothing new, however Eddy Hartley (a colleague in the department) has installed a script whereby it redirects all the Mac home folders to the user's u:drive (in other words, their personal network drive). The Mac assigns a guest account at log on, and the user will feel as though they are working locally. Everything they do while using the computer only affects the account and not the local machine.

Due to the size of media files and the nature of media editing we decided it wouldn't be appropriate to allow users to use their own university account - if they did, they'd only have a limited amount of storage space. Because of this and other matters such as helping students to work in groups more effectively we created dedicated computer accounts, linked to a dedicated server. Each account has 10GB of storage space and can be used on any one of the Mac computers during the editing process. Users need to request an account via on online form in advance, and once obtained they (and anyone else in their group) can use it during the loan period. Each account is issued per project basis and not on a long term basis. Basically the accounts will be constantly re-issued when not in use.

The edit suite computers can be booked using the university's myRoomsandResources booking system and is located in the Information Commons.

We have had the suite up and running for a few weeks now and we have had a number of users. So far most users have created media work without the need for support. We were slightly anxious (and I still am!) of having such a space open 24/7 and so we will be continually keeping a close eye on how users are using it.

That said, we're very excited about this new facility and hope it becomes a successful resource, especially as we have set it up in such a way that it is easily scalable at very little cost (essentially just the cost of the computers).

We are looking to install more advanced editing applications and was planing to install Final Cut Pro X. Unfortunately we are unable to do so as it does not work over a network (only a NAS drive). we are currently looking at purchasing Adobe Production Suite instead (CS6 when it arrives on the market).

Equipment for loan
Over the next month or so we are looking at replacing our current tape-based camcorders with tapeless. Currently users cannot use the edit suite if they have or have used our tape-based camcorders. This is because the size of the captured files are too large to edit with directly off the server. At present, those with tape-based material can only use the media room. Once we have all of our loanable equipment tapeless (SD card based), we will look to change the media room so that users can work in both the media room and edit suite during the production process.

Support material
We have also been working very hard on producing support material resources to help users use the creative media facilities outside of working hours. This support material is in both printable and video format. We have produced material to help users learn 'how to' as well as learning about 'good practice' in terms of media production. So, over the next couple of weeks we will be modifying our creative media webpages to include all of our resources. Here is an example of the video resources we are currently producing:

If you would like to check out other videos we have produced so far you can visit our YouTube channel.


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