A new toy for local media -- and a leg up for SUNY Ulster

Above: The Seven21 Media Center in Kingston. Photo courtesy of Seven21.

A new collaboration between SUNY Ulster and a private Kingston media center will soon put top-notch video production techniques in the hands of the college's students, and the community.

On August 29, the Seven21 Media Center on Broadway in Kingston proudly announced an $84,000 grant from Central Hudson Gas & Electric for the project. Seven21 -- which bills itself as “upstate New York's ultimate film, video, audio and media production facility” -- is beginning construction on a huge, seamless “green screen” studio, which SUNY Ulster students will learn to use by working alongside professionals in the field.

“Between now and November, we'll be doing the construction work,” said Seven21 CEO Jeremy Ellenbogen. “The college will be establishing a presence here, with signage and an office. 'Studio C' is mostly used for set storage right now, but by January it will be a cutting-edge seamless green screen facility.”

The green screen will allow virtual backgrounds, so that a wide variety of productions can use the space in rapid sequence without cost and labor-intensive set construction.

“The technology isn't brand new but it is still the future of production for both Internet and television,” Ellenbogen said. “Titanic, for example, was filmed on a giant blue screen in LA with a computer-generated iceberg. Backgrounds that would be prohibitively expensive become attainable.”

The center's members -- a a wildly diverse array of companies ranging from cutting-edge content producers and editors to an oldies radio station -- will also have use of the studio. Interested educational institutions and community groups will be able to rent the studio at reduced rates.

Seven21 is also building a post-production environment in which students can work in any of four editing rooms and a newsroom, linked to a classroom and an instructor. Scheduled to be up and running in September 2013, the facility will allow hands on work in a “media production simulator” instead of a classroom.

“Classroom style instruction might work to learn Photoshop, but it really doesn't work for video and audio production and editing,” said Ellenbogen. “Students will be able to design an independent study and create an actual project. The experience will make their degree highly marketable.”

Seven21's tenants will be donating their time and expertise in “microclinics” designed to enhance the curriculum.

“If you want to learn how to do three-point lighting or animate a logo, say, you can be taught by people who do this for a living,” Ellenbogen said. “This is advanced learning that students would not normally be able to access until they got to the internship phase of their studies.”

Potential microclinic topics include web development and social media, advanced camera techniques, motion graphics, and location and post-production audio techniques -- really, said Ellenbogen, whatever aspects of the available expertise prove to be in demand. It's about putting the school right into the professional environment.

“My goal and SUNY's,” says Ellenbogen, “is to create the most advanced facility in the state, so that SUNY Ulster can offer a much better facility than more expensive or selective colleges. If your talent lies in this area, but you lack either the grades or the money for SUNY Purchase or UCLA, you can get the cutting edge right here.”

A secondary goal, but an important one, is to continue reshaping Kingston's challenging Midtown neighborhood.

“Mayor [Shayne] Gallo wants to make this area all about education and technology, and I really don't see why not,” said Ellenbogen. “Look for a big ribbon-cutting and festivities in January.”

Below: Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping being filmed for Free Speech TV at a smaller green screen studio at Seven21. Photo courtesy of Seven21.