RIT’s Game Changer

Rochester Institute of Technology is poised to revolutionize digital media education with the innovative MAGIC Spell Studios.

Scheduled to open in Fall of 2018, MAGIC Spell Studios is a first-of-its-kind higher education facility designed to converge computer gaming, film, animation and digital media education under one roof with an emphasis on student entrepreneurship.

The thriving interactive entertainment industry increasingly leverages motion picture technology to blur the lines between traditional game design, animation and film-making. Recently, gaming industry giant and developer of the tremendously successful “Call of Duty” game, Activision, built its own movie studio to support the production of television and motion pictures for their own games.

As the video game industry grows, so too does the demand for talented employees, and education institutions are adapting their programs to prepare students for work in this exciting industry. Video game design has been part of the curriculum at RIT since 2001, and the undergraduate program is currently ranked #2 for game design in the nation according to the Princeton Review.

The concept for MAGIC, as outlined in a brief for members of U.S. Congress by Andrew Phelps, Director of RIT’s Center for MAGIC, leverages partnerships between university games programs, technology start-up incubators, small-business support networks, and government to help create jobs. This is the innovative, high-tech “shared sandbox”, MAGIC Spell Studios.

MAGIC Spell will serve as a technology-rich, entrepreneurial hub for the university’s acclaimed new media programs while providing a mix of professional quality facilities to support students as storytellers.

Early goal-setting discussions with RIT stakeholders produced creative ideas for a new campus experience at RIT intended to be fun and whimsical in support of MAGIC’s innovative collaborative media design culture. Stakeholders felt it was important that the interior design go beyond convention, providing a dynamic environment through color, creative finishes and furnishings, with workstations that support professional technology.

To architecturally express the nature of this new facility, an iconic exterior and a contemporary, high-tech startup interior were critical. The exterior features an abstracted “proscenium” with a glass curtain wall system which wraps the building and knits together the diverse program. The faceted glazing provides visual interest and a playful balance of transparency and reflectivity.

The new facility includes:

  • 7,000 SF Movie Sound Stage
  • Sound-Mixing Studio
  • Color Correction Studio
  • 180-seat Movie Theater
  • Three (3) Media Development Laboratories
  • 2D and 3D Animation Classrooms and Stop Motion Studios
  • Virtual Reality Laboratory
  • Research + Incubator spaces for startups
  • Related Office + Conference Spaces

The project leverages the site’s slope to provide high and low access to the project’s several tiered seating spaces, improving the entrance experience and enhancing the volume of the lobby. The design provides continuity between the existing School of Film and Animation facilities and the new sound stage, with a loading dock cleverly concealed behind the curtain wall system.

Several of the most unique campus environments developed to support MAGIC’s vision are its Sound Stage, Commercial Startup, and the Collaborative Partner Suite.

MAGIC’s new sound stage stands 35’ clear and includes an operable lighting grid. It meaningfully expands RIT’s academic filmmaking facilities and can be leased for external productions and eSports Gaming Events.

The Commercial Startup space is a meaningfully different academic environment, both academically and culturally. It provides a commercial startup environment with high-end media development technology that will engage students in the process of creating, producing and realizing projects as early as their sophomore year. Its technology exceeds any typical computing environment on campus and, to advise and nurture students’ entrepreneurial ventures, sixteen multidisciplinary faculty offices ring this workspace providing unique opportunity for faculty-student connection and support.

A Collaborative Partner Suite “flips” RIT’s historic cooperative educational experience by welcoming external organizations to occupy a campus office suite where they can engage with students and provide valuable professional experience.

New media development laboratories, 2D and 3D animation laboratories and a virtual reality laboratory are central to MAGIC’s curriculum and a 180-seat theater serves as a showcase for both internal and external work. Professional sound mixing and color correction rooms support both academic education and commercial use.

With its innovative academic approach and state-of-the-art media development and filmmaking facilities, RIT will be the place where MAGIC happens.

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Kim Mura
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