Category Archives: Media Labs

Students Providing Creative Support

ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.
ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.

When Teaching and Learning Services initiated the PCL Media Lab pilot phase in the Fall 2014 semester, we opted to experiment with a unique staffing model. Partnering with the University Leadership Network, a similarly youthful campus initiative, we developed a tiered, three-year internship program that would synthesize our staffing needs with an effort to cultivate digital media expertise in the Libraries.

In Year 1, interns undergo basic training in audio, graphics and video software, following step-by-step tutorials that we developed in house. By the end of their first semester, we expect our interns to have a shared vocabulary in multiple areas of media production. They assemble a short podcast using Audacity, then reconstruct a digital collage in Photoshop, and finally use public domain footage to edit a short video with music in Adobe Premiere Pro. For the Spring 2015 semester, we encouraged our interns to specialize in a software area of their own choosing, and to propose a project with the most appropriate software. That approach resulted in two short films, a digital music composition, the first phase of a student organization’s website, a 3-D modeling project and a graphic guide to using the pilot lab’s scanners. Furthermore, the Lab Assistants produced tutorial guides to help users understand the workflows and technical vocabulary required to produce this work.

Starting in Fall 2015, we wanted the Year 2 Lab Assistants to improve on their existing strengths, develop their areas of interest and, when possible, create work that could benefit UT Libraries as an institution. What follows is a summary of the work done this year by our ULN Lab Assistants as part of the digital media training that forms the backbone of their internship, and helps us to offer expertise to users in the PCL Media Lab.

Graphics

During the first semester, Product Design junior Whitney Chen and Fine Arts sophomore Jessica Vacek collaborated to produce a desktop calendar, copies of which were printed and sent to Libraries’ supporters. The pair took original photographs in different library branches around the 40 Acres, then embellished those pictures using Adobe Illustrator

From the Libraries calendar.
From the Libraries calendar by Whitney Chen and Jessica Vacek.

Later in the semester, Whitney designed UT Libraries’ annual holiday card, which is distributed stakeholders and peers nationwide.

Greeting card.
Greeting card by Jessica Vacek.

In the spring semester, Jessica took a turn doing some work for Communications by designing our popular Greetings from the Library postcard, distributed for free in PCL and featuring iconic images of the branch libraries (such FAL’s hanging piano).

In another graphic combining freehand drawing with Adobe Illustrator, Jessica also gave us a new design for the birthday cards that UT Libraries sends to supporters. Much of Jessica’s artistic training has been in freehand techniques and photography (check out some of her work here: http://operation-jessica.tumblr.com/), so her internship in the PCL Media Lab has helped her to integrate more traditional media with new digital tools.

Whitney was equally busy with clever graphics work this semester, this time training her designer’s eye on promotional materials for one PCL’s most popular events, the visits from dog therapy groups. We’ve featured some of Whitney’s work on Tex Libris before  and there is more to view on her portfolio website, so we’ll just let these two pieces speak for themselves.

"The Dogfather" by Whitney Chen.
“The Dogfather” by Whitney Chen.
"Barks and Recreation" by Whitney Chen.
“Barks and Recreation” by Whitney Chen.

Video

Video production and editing software is some of the most popular in the lab, so it’s no surprise that it was an equally popular area for our Lab Assistants to choose for specialty training. We featured one of these projects in Tex Libris earlier in the year, recounting how, using Adobe Premiere Pro, Charisma Soriano (Junior, Marketing + Film and Television), Lucia Aremu (Junior, Government) and Jocelyn Mendoza (Junior, Bilingual Education) “organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film” about the Freud Reia punk collection that the Fine Arts Library had recently obtained.

The video team took a more whimsical approach for their next project, using iMovie to stitch together a dreamy snapshot of life after hours in the PCL.

We unfortunately lost Jocelyn Mendoza to another internship at the beginning of the spring semester, but the video team benefitted from the addition of Computer Science junior Victor Maestas, who has been active in amateur filmmaking since high school. Working with Librarian for First-Year Programs Sarah Brandt, Victor, Charisma and Lucia produced an Orientation to UT Libraries video that will be used to help incoming freshmen get to know their way around different branches and library services.

3-D Modelling

With the increasing popularity of 3-D printing, and especially in light of the incipient makerspace in the Fine Arts Library, we are grateful to have the expertise of Thang Truong, a Biology junior, in the PCL Media Lab. Thang began experimenting with Autodesk’s  Maya software last year, and has significantly expanded his knowledge to include 3-D printing with Sketchup and more complex modelling techniques in Maya and Blender, another application offered in the Media Lab. The images below feature examples of Thang’s work, including an iPhone case that he printed through UT’s Innovation Station.

3d  modelling.
3d modelling.
iPhone case by Thang Truong.
iPhone case by Thang Truong.

The PCL Media Lab Assistants continue to exceed our expectations and do a terrific job of helping our patrons in the lab. Next year we aim to offer more one-on-one and small group consultations with the Lab Assistants, allowing them to share their expertise with an increasingly large user base.

Students, Spaces, Collections, for a Win

Records in the Reia punk collection.
Records in the Reia punk collection.

A happy convergence of circumstances at the beginning of the recent academic year resulted in a creative endeavor that highlights the Libraries, its users and the students who represent the quality of talent at The University of Texas at Austin.

Early this fall, the Fine Arts Library’s (FAL) music librarian David Hunter received a generous donation of pristine and rare punk vinyl in the form of 700 LPs and 400 singles (45s) from a collection carefully amassed by the late Justin Gibran (Freud) Reia.

Justin Gibran (Freud) Reia

Reia was a guitarist for Berkeley-area punk band The Criminals in the 1990s, active during a time when the city was spawning a pop-punk revival that manifested bands that would go on to garner broad attention, such as Rancid, The Offspring and Green Day. His connection to the punk music scene and the various players in a place where record stores are in abundance made it possible for Reia to build an exceptional collection of genre-specific gems.

Reia’s collection was donated to the FAL’s Historical Music Recordings Collection (HMRC) by Reia’s mother, Flora Salyers, and his wife, Tamara Schatz, with the hope that the music he had spent his life compiling would benefit future students, faculty and researchers who rely on the archive as a resource. Salyers delivered the collection herself, hauling the records in her car on a road trip from Little Rock, Arkansas, after a series of consultations with Hunter.

Reia’s lifetime of collecting — and his family’s decision to make the donation of materials — serves to fill a genre gap in the HMRC. Punk music was notably underrepresented as a focus within the archive, but the addition of such a range of items, many of which are uncommon or even obscure, has opened a new avenue of development for the collection.

This fall also saw the opening of the new Learning Commons in PCL, including the new expanded Media Lab on the ground level of the building. The lab is designed to provide students and other users access to the tools needed to build creative multimedia projects that are increasingly the currency of productivity in the higher ed learning environment. The lab is managed by Libraries Teaching and Learning professionals, but is staffed by students — Media Lab Assistants — from the University Leadership Network, a program of the UT Provost’s office designed to help undergraduate students from historically disadvantaged communities develop leadership skills while achieving academic success consistent with graduating in four years.

Lab assistants come from a range of different fields of study across campus, and work in tandem with their supervisors to develop expertise in the use of hardware/software in order to share their skills with fellow students who use the lab. Some of the assistants were chosen by the Media Lab managers for skills and knowledge they already had, such as Charisma Soriano, a junior Marketing and Radio-Television-Film major, who has experience with filmmaking and production. Charisma brought with her an understanding of that process which has been invaluable for Libraries staff.

ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.
ULN lab assistant Charisma Soriano and Learning Technologies Librarian Cindy Fisher.

To expand the opportunities for the ULN students in the Media Lab, as well as to fill a need for the Libraries, Charisma and her fellow lab assistants Lucia Aremu — junior  Government major — and Jocelyn Mendoza — junior, Education — were approached by their  supervisors to see if they would be interested in making a short film to highlight some aspect of the Libraries efforts; the subject matter was left completely to the students’ own interests. All three enthusiastically agreed to take on the project, and settled on the Reia punk collection as the focus for their effort.

Working in coordination with Media Lab Manager Andy Wilbur, the students toured the HMRC collection (located at the Collections Deposit Library) with David Hunter, conducted preliminary interviews with Hunter and Katherine Strickland — PCL Map Collection manager and punk music aficionado — then organized, shot, edited and produced a short documentary film on the collection, which is viewable below.

The Libraries relies on the generosity of donors and the talent of students and staff to make efforts such as this possible.

The preliminary estimate for processing the Reia Punk Collection is estimated at $8,000 — covering the cost of a graduate research assistant and cataloging. Consider donating to the Fine Arts Library to make this collection available for use by students, faculty, researchers and scholars.

 

Students in the Creative Space

Nate Jackson and Erin Kedzie. Prior to the opening of the Learning Commons, the Libraries were piloting a digital Media Lab in the PCL to gauge how useful students would find certain hardware and software in service of their personal and academic creative work.

The diminutive 14-seat pilot helped to guide the development of the robust new 44-unit strong Media Lab that opened as part of the new Learning Commons last Tuesday, and, thus far, its central and very visible location has attracted even greater attention and use than was imagined.

Even during the pilot phase, though, the lab was earning a the loyalties of regular users, many of whom are students in departments that don’t necessary provide access to all of the tools or resources that can help to ballast student productivity.

We discovered one such student through the approval process for filming in PCL, which is a pretty regular occurrence, especially with members of the RTF and Communications programs at the university.

Nate Jackson is a Communications senior at UT who wanted to shoot a short film on synesthesia for a Journalism Portfolio summer class using the 5th floor stacks in PCL as a backdrop. As is the case with almost every request to use Libraries facilities for class projects, Jackson received approval, and enthusiastically agreed to share the finished work with us upon completion so that we could highlight alternate student uses of the libraries.

After viewing the finished product — which coincided with the preparations for the Learning Commons opening — and being extremely impressed with the quality and skill it exhibited, we reached out to Nate to find out if, in addition to serving as a location for his film, he might also have used the Media Lab at PCL as a resource in the process of creating it. As it turns out, that was indeed the case; Jackson used the tools provided by the Libraries to edit and record voice-overs for the project.

The Media Lab at PCL.Nate graciously indulged us by participating in the opening of the Learning Commons, where he and his co-creator of the film project Erin Kedzie talked to attendees to the event about the process of making the film and the value of the resources in the Media Lab to their classwork and creative projects.

“Being able to go any time the PCL is open and having this software available works really well for me because I can’t afford this computer software on my own,” Jackson recently told the Daily Texan.

Jackson and Kedzie are just one story in a massive community of talented students on the Forty Acres who have the opportunity to succeed because the Libraries are finding ways to provide resources that level the playing field for everyone, regardless of program or personal resources.

See more of Jackson’s films at his YouTube channel, and consider supporting the Libraries Think Space initiative to help other gifted Longhorns like Nate and Erin to reach their potential, too.

 

Creating Superheroines in the Media Lab

Whitney Chen.
Whitney Chen.

The PCL Media Lab wouldn’t be the resource it is without the presence of knowledgeable student staffers to help users to make the most of the available technology. These lab assistants are brought on board because of their familiarity with the software, and their practical and creative experience with it.

We’ve highlighted the work of users in the past, but we shouldn’t overlook the creative proclivities of gifted staffers, as well. Whitney Chen is a lab assistant and a Design major at the College of Fine Arts, where she’s honing, among other talents, her skills at digital illustration. Her job in the Media Lab is providing her more time to practice her art, a few examples of which are below.

Ladies of Marvel Comics by Whitney Chen.

Ladies of DC Comics by Whitney Chen.

Ladies of DC Comics by Whitney Chen.

 

See more of Whitney’s work and learn a little more about her at the Media Labs Tumblr.

Building for Digital Creativity

current pilot lab

Just over a year ago, the UT Libraries opened a pilot Media Lab  in a small section of the entry level floor of the Perry-Castaneda Library.  Under the purview of Teaching and Learning Services and equipped with 15 dual-monitor iMacs loaded with a long list of creative software, we hoped it would be a place for students to work individually or in groups to create and share digital media projects.  According to our preliminary assessment data and statistics, our hopes were realized and students took to our little lab like free pizza at a campus event.

Our Media Lab pilot was an opportunity to achieve two goals at once: First, provide an unrestricted space and high quality resources for students to create digital media projects regardless of their major or departmental affiliation and, second, to test out this service before a larger 44-seat Media Lab opens in Fall 2015 as part of the Learning Commons project.

So why a Media Lab in the library and why now?

Continue reading this post at the Learning Commons blog.

The Price of Transformation

 

Building the Learning Commons in the Perry-Castañeda Library and the Creativity Commons in the Fine Arts Library come with a big price tag. The University of Texas Libraries has invested time, money, and staff to these projects, however, there is still a need for funding.

Phase one of the Learning Commons will transform 20,000 square-feet on the entry level of PCL. In addition to adaptive-learning classrooms and a new media lab, the Learning Commons will serve as the new home for the University Writing Center. These changes are all part of making the Perry-Castañeda Library a one-stop-shop for student research and productivity. The  overall cost for the first phase of the project — roughly $4.5 million — has been shouldered with the help of the Office of the Provost ($2 million), the College of Liberal Arts  ($500,000), and the Libraries ($1.5 million). The Libraries will still need to raise roughly $500,000 in order to fund the technology needs,  the most critical of components for the Learning Commons. Funding opportunities for the Learning Commons:

  • Digital Media Lab Sponsor – $75,000 (2 available)
    Provide a space for 50 students to access state-of-the-art technology to assist them in creating presentations, media production, gaming projects and collaborative assignments.
  • Learning Labs Sponsor – $50,000 (2 available)
    Provide technology-enhanced large classrooms available for instruction and student study.
  • Learning Labs Sponsor – $35,000 (3 available)
    Provide technology-enhanced smaller classrooms available for instruction and student study.
  • Technology Sponsor – $25,000 (3 available)
    Provide hardware, software, technical assistance and installation of digital technology in the Learning Commons.
  • Collaborative Space Sponsor – $15,000 (5 available)
    Provide general study and work space for graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Learning Commons Sponsor – $10,000
    Support enhanced research, writing and academic assistance each student in the Learning Commons will receive.
  • Student Sponsor – $1,700
    Provide services in the Learning Commons for one student. Students will have access to research and writing assistance, tutoring, academic support, digital media production training and assistance.

The Fine Arts Library’s Creativity Commons will transform the way students and faculty use the libraries at the University of Texas. The Creativity Commons will include maker workshop tools found in colleges elsewhere on campus, like 3-D printers and shop tools, in addition to game development, recording and video production studios. The Libraries believe that hosting these labs is pivotal to students’ success because while these tools are available in other areas on campus, they are restricted to students of a certain major. The University of Texas Libraries has partnered with the College of Fine Arts to fund staff to create and manage the various aspects of the Creativity Commons. The overall cost of building the Creativity Commons is $175,000. Funding opportunities for the Creativity Commons:

  • Video Production Studio Sponsor – $50,000
    Provide high-end video technology and equipment to check out and enable students to have access to high-end cameras and a responsive editing facility with large format monitors.
  • Game Developer Studio Sponsor – $35,000
    Provide equipment and technology for game development and testing.
  • Maker Workshop Sponsor – $25,000
    Provide a DIY space for students to create, fabricate, build, hack, and code.
  • Technology Sponsor – $25,000
    Provide all necessary hardware, software, and instillation for the Creativity Commons.
  • Recording Studio – $15,000
    Provide a variety of equipment for song/music creation – keyboards, computers, mixers, microphones and a “voice over booth,” that will have sound isolation for signers and narrators to practice and record vocal parts.
  • 3D Design Workspace Sponsor – $15,000
    Provide a cluster of medium-level 3D printing stations that will be fully support from design assistance to implementation.
  • Student Sponsor – $5,000
    Provide services in the Creativity Commons for one student. Students will have access to state-of-the-art technology and equipment as well as expert training.

The UT Libraries will embark on its very first crowd-funding campaign in March to raise $10,000 for the Recording Studio in the Creativity Commons. The campaign has partnered with five “champions” to spread the word about the Fine Arts Library Recording Studio. Fine Arts Librarian Laura Schwartz, UT Libraries Chief Development Officer Gregory Perrin, Psychology major Rosa Muñoz, Theatre and Dance and Advertising major Sara Robillard, and Librarian and local Austin musician PG Moreno are championing the project to students, faculty, alums, friends, and community members to gain their support. The campaign will kick off on March 23 and run through May 1. For more information or to get involved, please contact Natalie Moore.

Philanthropy continues to play a key role in the Libraries success. Individuals and corporations who invest in the Learning Commons and/or the Creativity Commons will be recognized with their name in the completed spaces they have sponsored. To support the creation of the Learning Commons or the Creativity Commons, please contact Gregory Perrin or visit our online giving page today.

Student Produces in Media Lab

Roberto Torres, a recent graduate from UT Austin’s Radio, Television and Film program, has been one of the Media Lab’s most enthusiastic and regular users since we opened this summer. He received early training in film production at McAllen High School in south Texas, where he won awards for his work on the KMAC student-run news station.

Here at UT, Roberto has strengthened his skills in shooting, editing and post-production, and has started experimenting with special effects. This video shows how he combined 3D modelling software Maya with Adobe Premiere and After Effects to “shatter” the wall of a building:

Check out more of Roberto Torres’s videos at the PCL Media Lab blog.