Kingston's Pounds 1m media future

June 18, 1999

Greg Dyke, Pearson Television's chief executive, launched Kingston University's Pounds 1 million digital media centre this week with a prediction of massive growth and booming job prospects in the new media industry.

"The number of jobs that are going to be created in television and associated industries in the next ten years is phenomenal," he said.

Peter Scott, vice-chancellor since 1997, confessed that his own media preference was for books but said the Whitespace Studio was "by a long way the most exciting project we have been involved in since I came here".

The studio was set up with Pounds 400,000 from the Department for Education and Employment. A further Pounds 550,000 came from the private sector including AZTEC, south west London's Training and Enterprise Council. Pounds 50,000 came from the university's funds.

AZTEC is known as a high-tech TEC. It has pursued a Pounds 24 million strategy to develop the information technology skills of businesses, schools and individuals in south west London. Its chief executive Ian Parkes helped produce the package of support from equipment suppliers and other companies that made Whitespace possible. "Some of it is cash, a lot of it is discounts, and some is in kind," he said.

Media 100 supplied four professional video editing systems at a discounted price. Roger Peatling, product specialist at Media 100, said: "We are looking to work further with Kingston as a preferential site. They will be getting upgrades from Media 100." The editing software and equipment normally costs Pounds 15,000 and needs to be installed in a high-end PC costing Pounds 10-15,000. Falling equipment prices have reduced some costs, but this has been partly offset by the proliferation of digital video recording formats. Equipment at Whitespace can handle DVC Pro, Digital S D9, Mini DV and Betacam SP.

The facility includes a television studio with lighting grid, three digital rostrum cameras, three Panasonic DVC Pro camcorders, 16 PCs and workstations with a range of graphics cards, peripherals and software, and an audio editing suite with DAT and analogue recording facilities.

The studio is expected to support itself by hiring out facilities to local media businesses including small companies that cannot afford expensive studios. The hope is that contact with businesses will work both ways and students will benefit by working with media professionals. The studio comes within the university's faculty of design which, unusually, also includes the school of music. Each moving-image student is paired with a music student. One such team, animator Claire Billett and musician Douglas Pipes, this year won a Royal Television Society student award.

The studio aims to foster creative talent, not just to turn out technicians who are proficient with the latest tools. The assembled media executives and creative stars agreed that change is accelerating and the future of the media is wide open and impossible to predict.

Martin Freeth, deputy chief executive of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), said: "There are not yet established rules in this game. The students who learn at Whitespace will be learning about the future."

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