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Sound decisions made with help of Academy Award winner

Randy Thom, center, was streamed into the Sound Production Suite at the USC School of Cinematic Arts as part of a master class.

Richard Weinberg, professor in the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts and the sound department at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) took a broad leap forward in remote collaboration by hosting a master class with Oscar-winning sound designer Randy Thom on Nov. 2.

Unlike other classes at the school, Thom taught the class remotely from Skywalker Ranch in Northern California. Thom and the student’s projects were streamed live in high definition (HD) into the Sound Production Suite in the Cinematic Arts Complex.

Prior to the class, Pro Tools sessions and Quicktime movies from four USC student films were sent to Skywalker Sound over the CineGrid network. Thom, who won Academy Awards for The Right Stuff and The Incredibles, reviewed the projects from his studio and gave the sound crews, who were in the SCA suite, real-time remote mentoring, with an emphasis on sound design and mixing techniques.

USC Associate Professor Midge Costin, who hosted the class and arranged Thom’s participation, said: “To get detailed, creative feedback on their sound designs from Randy Thom is invaluable for the students. It is a semester-worth of information, let alone a memory for a lifetime!”

Weinberg, who leads the school’s CineGrid efforts, noted, “The CineGrid family of high-speed networks for digital media research collaboration was utilized to provide connectivity between USC and Skywalker Sound.

“The class demonstrated how effective remote mentoring in sound production can be with high-definition video, 5.1 channel surround sound, interactive remote control of Pro Tools and high-quality video conferencing,” he said, “all bringing together one of the industry’s leaders with USC students.”

Brian Long MFA ’05 and Bahui Yang MFA ’12 provided technical coordination for the session at Skywalker Sound.

“High-quality remote collaboration is fast becoming a common expectation of the industry workflow, whether communicating across town in Los Angeles or across the planet,” Long said. “It is important to provide opportunities for students to experience the possibilities of the technology early on so they can take advantage of it in their own workflow.”

SCA plans future collaborations in the distance learning field to promote collaborations between students and industry professionals.

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