To the average passerby, 149 York St. is relatively plain. The building sits beside the flashier Yale Repertory Theatre and the fancier Yale Center for British Art, facing the equally unassuming Chapel-York Garage. Huddled behind the concrete latticework of its exterior, however, is a high-tech facility equipped with a film studio, ultraviolet printer and virtual reality program. The Center for Collaborative Arts and Media is ready to take Yale to the future.
“What we’ve been after is an effort to try to open up this space and try to make [it] function as an embodiment of the center’s mission, as a collaborative arts research space,” Facility Director Johannes DeYoung said. “We’re looking at opportunities to take technical infrastructure and make [it] as seamlessly integrated into this space as possible, [so that] the casual student can make use of the center’s resources. We’ve redesigned the space with the center’s programs in mind.”
CCAM will have a grand reopening in late October, though it will hold a series of small open houses throughout September. The Faculty Advisory Committee commenced renovation planning two years ago, while David Thompson Architects, a group that also designed the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium, began implementing rendition plans last year.
The center, formerly known the Digital Media Center for the Arts, once mostly served as a collection of rooms occupied by various classes. An entire one-third of its space had been used to store obsolete equipment, and its elegant wooden floorboards had been buried under carpets and tiles. Now the lobby is open, clear and well-lit.
The multipurpose room, situated directly by the lobby’s entrance, is the center’s crown jewel. It employs a 20-camera Vicon motion capture system identical to the one used by The Imaginarium, a London-based video production service. A group called Research In Motion, which meets in the room every Friday, has leveraged the center’s motion capture system to focus on live projection mapping of real-time objects. The room also possesses a virtual reality system with an HTC Vive headset apparatus that can measure a volume large enough to simultaneously include multiple people in VR. The room has been used by students and faculty in Yale’s Blended Reality applied research project, which focuses on XR — a combination of virtual and augmented reality also known as mixed reality.
A number of special projects and organizations are already making use of the space. The graduate projection design program in the Yale School of Drama utilizes tools like TouchDesigner and Isadora — a motion tracking software — for multiple interactive live performance events. The surface of the room’s soft sprung floor also enables dance performances. Meanwhile, an affiliate faculty member through the music department, Andrew Schartmann, is conducting a Co-Lab workshop on video game sound design, which will culminate in the international Global Game Jam event in January. Finally, CCAM will host animation historians and video, moving image, virtual reality and shadow theater artists throughout the semester.
Facing the multipurpose room across the lobby is the gallery. It consists of a long hallway lined with LED-lit wall frames, all currently empty. Students, individually or as a group, can propose shows to be featured in the gallery space. The center plans to host one or two exhibitions per semester, and the first exhibition will spotlight the center’s Blended Reality research group.
The first room on the left of the hallway is a traditional movie studio complete with cameras and a green screen. It will be available for general student use on a 24-hour checkout basis during the center’s operating hours (8 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 11 a.m. to midnight on weekends). Like the multipurpose room, the studio comes with an in-built VR capacity. Multiple ports on the walls allow for live switching between the inputs of cameras and other devices, which DeYoung calls a “big upgrade” from the previous video facility.
Next to the studio sits three small suites similarly equipped with VR capacity and available on a checkout basis through the equipment loan managed by the student loan providers. One space is primed for audio production while another has a copy stand for traditional animation.
After the suites come the central classroom space, which hosts 24 courses across the School of Art, the School of Drama, Film and Media Studies and Theater Studies. “Performance and the Moving Image,” a spring semester course DeYoung will be co-teaching with Emily Coates and Joan MacIntosh, is cross-listed in the Film, Art, and Theater Studies departments.
All the resources in the lab conveniently ride on wheels, facilitating easy movement. Right outside the classroom is a booth from which students can rent equipment, intended to come online by the end of shopping period.
Tucked away at the back of the center is the media lab. The room is stuffed with high-quality, quasi-futuristic equipment: vinyl cutters, large format scanners, wide-format ink-jet printers and ultraviolet printers. Mirrors aside, the UV printers can print on basically anything with latex point, including glass, wood, metals, plastics and, as DeYoung shrewdly noted, even laptops. The corner walls host tables of computer monitors and shelves of storage equipment.
The back space of the media lab is home to bookbinding equipment like ream cutters. DeYoung noted that last year’s bookbinding workshop had a table at the art gallery’s book fair. One group made an iPad audiobook that engaged the busts in the Greco-Roman wing of the gallery; visitors could tap on an image of a bust they found in the art gallery and enjoy an inner monologue by the figure represented by the bust.
Walking out of the media lab and the gallery, one might note an oddity in the lobby’s appearance. Now that renovations have removed the lobby’s office furniture, a large L-shaped scorch mark is visible on its wooden floor. The mark, which DeYoung believes to have been caused by an oven, is a legacy of the center’s distant past, when its building belonged to the Bond Bread Baking Company. The center isn’t in a hurry to hide the scar; in fact, DeYoung hopes to leave as much of it uncovered by the custom-built lobby furniture as possible. As an honorary flourish, the lobby and the gallery to which it leads will be called “the bakery.”
“We named it the bakery in keeping with the spirit of the center, of the work that’s produced here,” said DeYoung.
Ahmed Elbenni | email@example.com