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The future of music is here; gone are the 1970s

Rochester Business Journal
December 3, 2010

A new media control room with state-of-the-art technologies is aimed at getting the music, performance and personality of Eastman School of Music out to the masses.

Among the upcoming enhancements is the ability to stream high-definition video online.

"People will have access to the most amazing moments in the performance without even being at the venue," said Helen Smith, the school's director of technology and media production. "They will be able to see what goes on here."

Those at the school say the fifth-floor command center will be the media control room of the future and the nexus of the Eastman School's technology vision. The media upgrades-which took roughly three years to develop-are being completed in two parts. Both should be done by March.

"It will have a serious wow factor when it's done," Smith said.

The first involves getting the new media control room online with the school's three other media rooms. The second part includes implementing more Internet and additional audio- and video-streaming capabilities from performance and rehearsal halls at the school. That includes Kodak Hall and the newly constructed Hatch Recital Hall in the Eastman East Wing.

An Internet protocol robotic camera system will be installed in the new recital hall, replacing some of the recording work now done manually.

In addition to the media control room-which has a 44-inch flat-screen television and is where performances will be recorded, edited and mixed-the media suite includes a machine room to conceal behind-the-scenes equipment.

A staff of four engineers will run the media operations. Planners accounted for the number of workers when designing the site so each could complete tasks with ease without the need for additional workers, Smith said. The biggest challenge proved to be upgrading from media resources of the 1970s analog era to more modern digital capabilities.

"We skipped a generation or two," Smith noted.

The new equipment enables the school to offer some firsts. Students can obtain recordings of their performances that are comparable in quality to what they would receive at a commercial recording studio in New York City or Los Angeles, said John Truebger, an audio engineer at the Eastman School. They then can add the compact disc or DVD recording to their digital portfolio, using it as a calling card of sorts, Smith added.

Adding streaming capabilities to improved acoustics in Kodak Hall and Hatch Recital Hall pulls Eastman ahead of what can be done at similar schools, Smith said.

"We've gone above and beyond with this technology," she said.

In addition, the new equipment will lay the groundwork for fiber-optic Internet connections to venues outside the theater and additional high-definition capabilities on-site.

It also will allow the school to offer more Internet2 classes. The dedicated high-bandwidth network connects research and education communities throughout the United States. It is designed for applications that demand high-quality video and audio, such as medical and arts collaborations.

There are many similar networks around the world, all interconnected, enabling institutions such as the University of Rochester to share research and performances with colleagues on nearly every continent, Smith said.

The Eastman School has been using Internet2 for music performance and academic discussion for nearly a decade. Master classes, performances, seminars, forums, interviews and meetings now take place on a regular basis with schools and performance institutions across the country and in Canada and Europe. Plans are under way to connect with Asia and Australia.

The public can see Internet2 in action Dec. 7. Eastman School students and faculty will join colleagues from the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo for performance, teaching and conversations.

The session will demonstrate how Internet2 enables faculty members to expand their teaching and performance reach and allows students to learn from expert around the world. It will be held in Hatch Recital Hall.

"We are connecting with a school that is 5,000 miles away and six hours ahead of us," Smith said.

12/3/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail 

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