April 29, 2011
By Kris Foster
By Kris Foster
The Digital Research Centre in the College of Arts and Science is setting the stage for creative collaboration between all disciplines on campus.
“We are here to bridge the gap between humanity scholars and technology, both in terms of IT and research engagement,” said Jeff Smith, manager of the Digital Research Centre. “We basically use technology as a way to help scholars ask new and interesting questions.”
A new project for the centre that is reaching out to even more diverse disciplines is the 3D Hetero-disciplinary Animation at the U of S (3D HAUS), which involves writing and producing an animated series of 3D short films. The twist on the project, explained Smith, is that the centre is calling out to everyone on campus—students, faculty and staff from any and all disciplines—to be a part of it.
“Creativity doesn’t just happen when you wake up, and innovation doesn’t start with the firing of a starter’s pistol,” he said. “It happens at unpredictable moments and flourishes when cultures collide. That’s what we are trying to do here by bringing together these disparate disciplines.”
Smith envisions the production team, which already includes a writer, sculptor, photographer, a couple of computer science students and a history professor, to grow to also include disciplines like engineering, drama, music, business, law and other interested groups.
“I can’t think of a single group on campus that wouldn’t have something to contribute to this process. From script development and programming to distribution, there is no shortage of areas which require specific expertise,” explained Smith, who worked as a software consultant on movies including the Lion King, Aladdin, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park. “The secret agenda of this interdisciplinary project is to get everyone talking and learning new ways to look at problems. It’s a way to bring disciplines together in a relaxed environment where they can chat, work and have fun.”
To get the ball rolling, Smith created initial concept drawings and a story arc for 18 episodes—each between three and five minutes—of a show called Notes from the Wreck Age. The episodes are set in the visually rich “steampunk” genre; think Jules Verne or imagine a Victorian-based world in which steam and mechanical power are used because electronics and the jet age never happened. Smith described the show as “a dark tale about the coming of age for robots and other mechanical species after the last human dies.”
Smith and the project team will now work on further script and character development, computer programming, set creation, soundtrack and music composition, and lighting for the first episode. Based on its success, the team will move to the next episode and continue to look for ways to evolve as a group.
People lose touch with how much fun it is to work on a common project and create something you couldn’t have done by yourself. 3D HAUS will create connections that will help people tackle problems from new disciplinary sites.”