George Lucas ’66, with Zemeckis: “Bob is a true innovator. He creates the kind of breakthrough effects that other directors wish they’d thought of.”

Launching a New Screen Era

Hollywood turns out for the opening of the country’s first fully digital training facility, USC Cinema-TV’s new Zemeckis Center.

THE MARCH 1 GRAND opening of the USC School of Cinema-Television’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts marked a new era in the making of film. More than 500 people – including California governor Gray Davis and filmmakers George Lucas ’66 and Steven Spielberg – attended the gala event.
Launched with a $5 million gift from alumnus and Academy Award-winning director Zemeckis ’73, the center is the country’s first and only fully digital training facility.
“I am thrilled to share in the first educational venture to embrace all aspects of digital production, leading filmmakers from concept through completion,” said Zemeckis. “Our goal is to offer the next generation of USC cinema-television students a new palette of technical tools with which to enhance the vision and scope of their storytelling.”
The 35,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility – located across from the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles’ revitalized Figueroa Corridor – houses the latest in non-linear production and post-production equipment, as well as production stages, a 50-seat screening room and the USC student-run television station, Trojan Vision.
“The opening of the Zemeckis Center is a milestone in the USC School of Cinema-Television’s evolution, further enriching the curriculum with the most advanced tools in digital filmmaking,” said Dean Elizabeth Daley. “We are deeply grateful to Robert Zemeckis and all of our donors for ensuring that our students stay ahead of the curve in the new technology of storytelling.”
Designed to offer students hands-on experience with the latest industry-standard technology, the center is highlighted by an expansive digital editing laboratory with 60 of Avid Technology Inc.’s recently released Xpress DV systems.
Joining Avid, other contributors to the Zemeckis Center include Alias Wavefront, Apple, Canopus Corp., Digital Theater Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Kodak, Lucent Technologies, Niagara Broadband, Philips Broadcast, Pinnacle Systems, Quantel, Rorke Data, Softopia, Silicon Graphics, Sony Corp., Ultimatte, Vicon and Zuma Networks.
The Zemeckis Center also boasts an array of visual effects equipment, including blue- and green-screen technology; digital stages with motion control computers; CGI classrooms; five studio-quality sound stages; non-linear digital shooting systems; and a screening room with 16 mm, 35 mm and digital production capabilities and a THX sound system. To create versatile facilities capable of embracing technical developments, the center also houses a digital editing “bullpen” with at least 60 stations, suites for digital sound and picture editing, and digital compositing equipment such as a Quantel Domino special-effects workstation.

DIRECTOR ROBERT ZEMECKIS pioneered the melding of animation, live action and special effects into a novel form of entertainment with such films as his Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Contact and Academy Award-sweeping Forrest Gump, the fourth-largest grossing film ever made.
Zemeckis has maintained strong ties to the School of Cinema-Television and an active interest in encouraging the creative potential of young filmmakers. He has been a popular USC lecturer in past years, is a member of the Cinema-Television Board of Councilors and regularly mentors student projects.
He joins other entertainment figures whose names adorn facilities at the school, including Lucas and Spielberg, as well as Johnny Carson, Cecil B. DeMille, Harold Lloyd, Marcia Lucas, Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner.
“Bob is a true innovator,” said George Lucas. “He creates the kind of elegant, breakthrough effects that other directors wish they’d thought of, weaving them seamlessly into his stories. A state-of-the-art center dedicated to Bob Zemeckis is a wonderfully fitting tribute to his legacy.”


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