Cyberspace: the final frontier
School pioneers into digital age with visionary program for new
By Phillip Hong
The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is about to
embark on a journey to boldly go where no student film has gone
The Laboratory for New Media, located in Melnitz Hall, is a
fully operational new media production and instructional complex.
With top-of-the-line equipment and state-of-the-art software,
students in the lab are producing politically proactiveand
aesthetically challenging short films entirely on a digital
"With the newly designed lab, we now have the ability to produce
entirely new forms of audio/visual media," says Fabian Wagmister,
coordinator of the $97,000+ laboratory and a professor of the film
school for four years.
Currently, the use of computers in the entertainment industry is
skyrocketing. Responsible for the animated effects that dazzled
audiences in The Mask and the image splicing effects used in
Forrest Gump, computers have proven themselves versatile, cheap and
highly effective in film production.
The demand of computer friendly filmmakers in the entertainment
industry, forced the School of Theater, Film and Television to
allocate departmental funds for the lab.
"The whole dynamic of film is changing, and the digital medium
has the capacity to empower the individual," says Wagmister.
Students can produce digital movies and interactive media by
manipulating still photography, graphic arts, film and video.
Furthermore, the laboratory has the equipment to download the films
A preview of some of these digital films show topics that range
from the break-up of the family nucleus to the superficiality of
the fashion world.
The hands-on experience, coupled with cutting-edge facilities,
is a unique opportunity and a major boost for a UCLA film student’s
marketability in both film and CD-ROM production companies.
Even highly respected cross-town rival USC’s film school lacks a
program that is as visionary as the Laboratory for New Media.
"Computers in film are more than just a convenient tool for
editing and special effects but rather it is the birth of a new
medium for communication," says Wagmister.
The creative power that the computer allows pushes the digital
storyteller to redefine the existing parameters of entertainment.
This is a challenge that has many people in Hollywood guessing, as
there is a very real potential for reaping huge financial
CD-ROM games now feature big name Hollywood talents. Malcolm
McDowell of "Clockwork Orange" fame stars in the sci-fi space opera
game "Wing Commander III." The hard boiled detective game "Under a
Pale Moon" stars Margot Kidder, who was Lois Lane from the
Blazing new trails as pioneers of cyberspace, the Laboratory for
New Media is scheduled to become a server site on the Internet by
the end of this quarter. On the World Wide Web, a graphical
Internet environment, student films created in the lab will have
the potential viewership of over 30 million people.
"We’re bypassing the last 10 years of technology and jumping
into the future," says Jon Belanger, the teaching assistant for the
The launching of UCLA student digital media projects into
cyberspace echoes Professor Kleinrock’s South Campus achievement 25
years ago; he jumpstarted the Internet by connecting a PC to a
The marriage of entertainment with digital technology, and the
two achievements here on campus, is a telling tale that what the
rest of the world will see in terms of the future of digital media
will largely be determined here at UCLA.
"UCLA is the perfect nexus point for technology and
entertainment," says Kevin Fisher, a graduate film school student
enrolled in the digital media class.