Carnegie Mellon University
February 28, 2012

News Brief: ETC Offers Classes at 31st Street Studios

ETCThe Entertainment Technology Center will offer some classes at the 31st Street Studios in Pittsburgh's Strip District this semester, where students will have access to an advanced motion capture system and opportunities to take part in major film productions.

The studio on Feb. 27 announced it would partner with Paramount on Location, a division of Paramount Studios Group that provides production support services, and Knight Vision Motion Capture, a digital production company. Knight Vision was founded by James Knight, who developed motion-capture techniques for the movie "Avatar."

"Our idea from the beginning was to create the best facility of its type in the country, said Chris Breakwell, CEO and founder of 31st Street Studios. "We've gone a long way toward that goal in our first year, and these partnerships will continue to help cement Pittsburgh as a production environment unrivalled throughout North America."

The 31st Street Studios occupies a former steel plant. It has six sound stages, a special effects shop and other amenities.

Like other motion-capture systems, Knight Vision creates computer animation by having humans wear costumes fitted with digital markers that computers can use to transfer the person's motion to an animated character. But the company's innovation is that filmmakers can see the digitally created characters where they will appear in the film frame instead of having to imagine where they will be added using computers after the fact.

"The environment at 31st Street and the cooperation of CMU's ETC make this a unique opportunity," Knight said. "We're going to do things no one else is doing anywhere."

The state makes $60 million available in tax credits annually that filmmakers can put toward some production expenses, provided at least 60 percent of a film's total budget is spent in the state.

"The digitization of filmmaking provides myriad opportunities for the creation of new forms of visual expression, immersion, storytelling and gaming," said ETC Executive Producer Don Marinelli. "Having the Knight Vision System at 31st Street Studios will give ETC students a tremendous opportunity to advance filmmaking in Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh has attracted a number of movie productions in recent years including "The Dark Knight Rises" that was partly filmed at Carnegie Mellon, "One Shot," "The Next Three Days," "Abduction," "She's Out of My League" and "My Bloody Valentine."

"Pittsburgh really is becoming the Hollywood of the East," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at a news conference.