Hollywood excellence in Purdue Polytechnic

Originally published in the 2016 edition of Innovation magazine

Producing educational video content with Hollywood-like production value is now possible without leaving Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. With the 2015 installation of a new high-quality visual effects system in Knoy Hall’s Visual Effects Lab, Purdue became the first educational institution in the country to acquire a LightCraft Previzion System.

Using computer-generated images, high-grade cameras, sensors, and coded ceiling-mounted location-reference targets, the system records video of live subjects while incorporating virtual backgrounds and stationary or moving images, characters, and 3-D objects.

“Rather than providing an educational experience which only approximates what graduates might see on the job, our students now have exactly what they’ll use in industry,” says Carlos Morales, professor of computer graphics technology and director of the lab. He says the Previzion system will play a pivotal role for students in the new visual effects compositing major and the effects technical direction major. Improving digital-education content is another goal.

“We want to create content which is far more immersive and compelling. If you’ve seen very high-end documentaries like ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,’” Morales says, referring to the recent, critically acclaimed 13-part television miniseries, “those are possible only with the marriage of technology used in Hollywood and educational content.”

“The system lets you get something that’s of acceptable quality in real time,” Morales says. “It also accelerates the process of creating Hollywood-quality results. We could previously do this only in post-production, which made it very difficult to previsualize what we wanted to create.”

In spring 2016, students in CGT 44600, Post-Production and Special Effects for Computer Animation, filmed an educational television show for children that merged people and props with computer-generated 3-D and 2-D objects. They used the Previzion for on-set visualization, which allowed them to frame shots exactly as needed during the live shoot. “The tracking data was already rock solid,” says Vincent Scalone, graduate teaching assistant in computer graphics technology, “so we got to spend more time in post production on the overall artistic look of the program.”

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