Through the Looking Glass: return to the ETC

October 3, 2012

The Entertainment Technology Center

Over the last couple of years I have written a little about my previous visits to the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University here and here, a few things have changed since then so this visit was an interesting one in a number of ways. First of all Don Marinelli has now retired. As Don was one of the two founders of the ETC this leaves something of a hole in the place: Don is something of a superstar – inspirational speaker, larger than life character and a truly gifted teacher with a tight grasp on how learning works. A good friend too. Nevertheless, the ETC is bigger than any one man and Don and Randy Pausch provided enough momentum that I suspect their ongoing project is pretty much unstoppable now.

Also, last semester we had the pleasure of hosting one of the ETC’s project teams here at MediaCityUK, (I’ll document that in another post soon – complications around a parallel project meant that I’ve been obliged to keep quite about it till now). This was my first return visit since hosting the project at MediaCityUK and I was here to do more workshops on 3D audio and how ETC projects could use it in game development. The brilliant Dave Purta, the ETC tech support, made sure all the hardware was set up for me and ready to roll so I arrived with a couple of laptops on the audio evangelist tour pt II.

A nice welcome when I arrived

Last year I showed some demos of ambisonic audio and went through binaural recording but this year we were mixing in ambisonics thanks to Bruce Wiggins‘ excellent decoder and panning VST plugins. Both Bruce and Andy Horsburgh were a huge help while I was in Pittsburgh preparing material for classes, Andy in particular was on standby via Twitter while I was setting up my demos so THANKS ANDY! The workshops were great, the students at ETC were outstanding as ever – they’re very bright and ate up the material: we covered everything from basic sound perception to ambisonic mixing during the short sessions and many of them hung out afterwards to ask how they could use it in their projects. Hopefully some of them will be in touch after Christmas when they get to scope out their projects, it’ll be good to work with their project teams again, even from a distance.

Meanwhile we’re continuing to set up trans-disciplinary teams for various projects here at Media City. Some of the ideas I’m hearing from our students are very ambitious and need a similar mix of skills as at the ETC to make them happen. If they work they’ll be incredible. Watch this space.

Good to meet with Anthony Daniels again overlooking the Pittsburgh rivers from Mount Washington. Anthony and I were both advisors on the ETC project based at University of Salford’s MediaCityUK building. That fella knows a thing or two about working across disciplines.

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