Media Production Center marks one-year

By Shardae Smith

It’s been one year since Columbia officially opened the doors of the 35,500-square-foot Media Production Center, located on 16th and State streets, which made history as the college’s first newly constructed building in its 120-year presence.

The Media Production Center serves as a professional laboratory, equipped with sound stages, screen testing rooms, an animation lab and a motion capture studio, aimed at replicating the environment students will encounter post-graduation.

The center was designed with the School of Media Arts in mind but also serves as a way to intertwine other areas of concentration, according to chair of the Film and Video Department Bruce Sheridan.

“We really have been able to do things at the Media Production Center to break down the separation between departments and between the schools,” Sheridan said.

According to Doreen Bartoni, dean for the School of Media Arts, the college would rent sound stations for advanced productions before the MPC was built.

“It’s hard to imagine [the college] before the MPC because we’ve integrated the center within the curriculum, particularly with film and video,” Bartoni said.

Alicia Berg, vice president for Campus Environment, said the community’s perception of the college has changed within the South Loop because of the MPC.

“It’s one thing to take a historic building and brand it with super graphics on the exterior to show the college’s creativity,” Berg said. “But when you’re able to design a whole new building, where the exterior expresses Columbia, like we were able to do on the MPC, it really made a leap frog in terms of advancing people’s concept of what Columbia is.”

Bartoni said the concept around developing the MPC in the emerging neighborhood at 16th and State streets was an “open field.”

“When pedestrians walk by, they can see what’s going on in the production suites or see students practicing, directing and acting,” Bartoni said. “So we really wanted to be a really good neighbor in that way.”

Sheridan said when “Avatar” cinematographer Mauro Fiore visited the MPC, Fiore stated the center had the capability to shoot the award-winning movie.

“We’re now in a position to shoot anything,” Sheridan said. “We can shoot a feature film in there when we’re ready to do it.

According to Sheridan, because he has previous experience with film studios, he expected problems for the center’s first year of operation.

“I expected there would be all sorts of bumps in the road, and it wouldn’t work well,” Sheridan said. “But in fact, it worked really well from day one, and it was a little bit of a strange feeling. I was sitting back waiting for problems and they never arose.”