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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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Media Studies Program Fits Within Students' Frame

The term "media studies" often conjures with it images of independent filmmakers toting massive cameras and equipment around a bustling set en route to Hollywood.

The media studies department at UB, however, acts more as an incubator for students interested in the numerous aspects of performance, allowing them the creative freedom not afforded at many "traditional" film schools.

UB's media studies department is housed within the Center for the Arts, acting almost as a clubhouse for students interested in all elements of visual and performing arts. It would be hard to define an "average" media studies major, as there are several paths within the department for a creative mind to follow.

Meg Knowles, the department's instructional support technician, stresses that students can pursue many creative options within the department. "A student can work in filmmaking, video making, digital art, multi-media, Web design, or even be into computer programming, robotics or virtual reality," said Knowles.

Majoring in media studies does not necessarily pigeonhole a student into drumming up finance for a student film and pushing it upon an uncaring Hollywood. Past graduates have gone on to work in production companies making both cinematic and industrial videos, multimedia corporations, Web design, interactive CD-ROM design, education, independent film work, cinematography and (eventually) producing.

Students are taught from the beginning how to use the equipment that will allow them to hone their artistic craft. The department's facilities offer creative tools including a 16mm Bolex hand-wind film camera, VHS and digital cameras, audio and lighting equipment, tripods, and a beautifully equipped Macintosh lab, with modern G4 computers loaded with all manner of software geared toward media creators.

"Students are encouraged to explore their own artistic interests," said Ray Roussel, chair of the media studies department. "We don't have a program that's focused on making Hollywood commercial films. It's not like commercial filmmaking at NYU or USC, it's more of an independent producers program for undergraduates."

Due to the nature of the major, the newest equipment and software must be immediately available to students for them to compete effectively with students attending more traditional film schools. In the 1970s, the department made a great leap forward in equipment purchase; 20 years later, students raised the issue that they were using equipment older than disco.

When the Center for the Arts was built, the department was given a certain budget from the university to purchase equipment to update the new facility.

"We are a lot more than a film program," said Roussel. "We probably have put over a million dollars in this department over the last three years, in just equipment."

Media and fine arts student Catherine Lalonde enjoys the do-it-yourself nature of the program.

"The media studies department itself is a very good program because it is interdisciplinary, you can major in media studies and biology or media studies and English. There is more freedom to the courses you choose to take," she said.

Lalonde and others enjoy a financial freedom as well. Students are able to borrow equipment from the department for a few days at a time, avoiding rental fees averaging $50 a day, along with fees for extra equipment.

The ability to work often with their equipment is very important to those students who fully intend to practice their craft following graduation.

"I am here for film - most people don't do film anymore. They want to work on videos or computers," said one student in the department, who asked to remain unnamed. "The good thing about this film department is because it's so small, everyone in the classes gets a chance to get their hands on a camera. In other film schools they break you up into teams at the beginning of the semester . you can be there for cinematography and end up working the lights."



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