The MAGIC Center: What to Expect
by Kasey Mathews | published May. 3rd, 2018
The RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC Center) is set to open its doors this fall. With it comes a vast number of new technologies and possibilities for RIT students.
The MAGIC Center was first conceptualized over three and a half years ago. Administration noticed an increasingly collaborative industry trend between game designers and animators. Meanwhile, RIT was also looking to expand upon the Interactive Games and Media (IGM) and School of Film and Animation (SOFA) programs, both already receiving some of the largest application-to-acceptance ratios across any of the university’s academic programs.
However, there was little space for such a large collaborative expansion to occur. Thus, RIT went to the state with a proposition: an entrepreneurial incubator for gaming projects to develop into full-fledged businesses, bringing jobs to western New York. The governor’s office responded with a $13.5 million grant to help fund a new facility for such a project.
“Much of this building is serving two purposes. One is the expansion of these programs [IGM and SOFA], and the other is still the original vision,” said Malcolm Spaull, administrative chair for the School of Film and Animation.
The MAGIC Center brings new technologies to campus and expands on existing ones. On the ground floor, the center of attention belongs to a 7000 square foot soundstage that will allow students to shoot films in a professional setting utilizing two hard cycloramas, or green screens.
Additionally, the ground floor will feature a sound studio for audio mixing, a color correction suite, a 3D animation lab, a 180-seat theatre with 4k projection capabilities and “gaming pods” in which game designers can work in a collaborative lab environment.
Moving to the upper floor, there will be a 2D animation lab, four separate stop-motion studios, a more traditional game design lab, “huddle spaces” in which outside companies can come and work with students, a VR/AR lab as well as faculty offices and administrative suites.
Even with the straightforward uses of these new facilities and equipment, there are many extra opportunities that are not so evident.
“The design principle that we followed was that every space in the building would be multiuse — it would not be designed for just one thing,” explained Jennifer Hinton, assistant director of the MAGIC Center and chief communications officer of MAGIC Spell Studios. “So, right now we have this 7000 square foot soundstage that will be used in a variety of ways.”
Among the many uses of the soundstage beyond student filming is its utilization as a recording studio for orchestral scoring of films and games. It will also be a place to design and construct film sets. Additionally, the stage is of the perfect dimensions to qualify as a professional filming location, allowing RIT to incentivize professional producers to film at the facility.
"It’s really all about putting the most passionate and creative people together."
New York State has a program that subsidizes a portion of qualifying film production costs, given the film was at least partially produced within the state.
“If you qualify, then you can get up to 30–35 percent of your [qualifying] costs reimbursed to you,” Spaull explained. With filming costs so high in New York City, the construction of the soundstage will bring companies north of the city to take advantage of the lower production costs.
Yet, Spaull assures students that their coursework is of the highest importance.
“Academics take priority, so we’re not going to kick out a class to put a movie set in there,” Spaull stated.
Instead, outside production companies will only be permitted access during the summer and when classes are not in session, similar to the system used to rent out the Gene Polisseni Center.
Hinton hopes that students will take advantage of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new MAGIC Center, publishing their creations for the larger world to use and enjoy. MAGIC Spell Studios will be there along the way to help in the process.
“What you need to do to make a game to satisfy a course requirement and what you need to do to satisfy a publisher are two very different things,” Hinton noted. MAGIC Spell Studios exists, and has existed, to teach students how to take their creations one step further.
MAGIC Spell Studios is the publishing arm of RIT, ready to serve employees and students alike.
“This is a learning process that does not exist in any curriculum here at RIT or, we think, anywhere in the country,” Hinton explained. “With [MAGIC Spell Studios] is the opportunity to teach students what it takes to make and publish a game or piece of media.”
Hinton is excited to see the new MAGIC Center, viewing it as an expansion of opportunity and resources that is bound to help students prosper. Yet, she acknowledges the fear that MAGIC will be of little use to those majors outside SOFA and IGM or those who wish to work on personal projects.
“MAGIC Spell Studios is the university’s playground. All majors are welcome and encouraged to get involved,” Hinton assured. “Our thought was we would take all of the cool toys and technologies and put them in one place and everyone who’s interested in creating content and media will come to this new facility and create it together. It’s really all about putting the most passionate and creative people together.”
As the MAGIC Center opens its doors in Fall 2018, a wave of creative opportunities will come with it.
“We’ve had the opportunity to walk through the building in the last couple of weeks and it’s really exciting to see the building coming to life," Hinton said. "We’ve been saying for years, 'Coming in the fall of 2018' and fall of 2018 is around the corner so we are just super excited to get in the building and get to work, and see what it is we’ll create together!”