Creative production’s new workforce is coming
Students in digital animation, visual effects and virtual reality at Drexel University’s ACE-Lab can learn more creatively and quickly using advanced hardware and powerful graphics tools
Higher Education | United States
The core goal of Drexel University’s ACE (Animation, Capture & Effects) Lab is to prepare students for work not only in media, entertainment and gaming, but also in other fields needing visualization skills — a mission requiring the support of powerful technology.
Enriches the student learning experience
Offers studio-quality production tools
Facilitates creative risk-taking
Enables explorations of virtual reality and 360° video alternatives
Helps students work about 60x faster
Gains twice the price-performance over alternatives
When people talk about digital animation, special effects and video, most listeners assume it all involves media, entertainment or gaming — and odds are they’d usually be right. But that’s changing fast, according to Nick Jushchyshyn, program director for Animation and Visual Effects at Drexel University’s ACE (Animation, Capture & Effects) Lab. The ACE-Lab is part of the university’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which offers degrees, including doctorates, in these disciplines.
“We see a wide variety of industries using animation, virtual reality and 360° video to improve their communications, training and human interface design,” Jushchyshyn says. “So it’s not just entertainment hiring our grads.”
Keeping curriculum and technology up to date
One of the top challenges for the lab is staying current with what’s happening in the working world that its roughly 500 students will eventually enter. To help, Jushchyshyn and about a dozen other full-time faculty keep their own skills sharp, and they invite working industy professionals to teach at the ACE-Lab in Philadelphia.
In addition, Jushchyshyn works closely with Jay Rappaport, Westphal College’s assistant dean of Information Technology and Facilities, to ensure the ACE-Lab’s technical infrastructure meets the demands of students and faculty alike. That includes 46 lab-based, Dell Precision 7000 Series tower workstations, all with NVIDIA GP100 graphics cards.
“Many students are surprised to see mainly PCs in our labs, but other systems can’t run the NVIDIA cards like the Dell Precision workstations can, with their powerful Intel Xeon processors,” Rappaport says. “In fact, the Precision 7910s can run up to four of them.”
Working about 60x faster
Jushchyshyn points out that the power of the Dell Precision workstations with the dual Intel® Xeon® processors and the NVIDIA GP100 graphic cards helps students get their work done much faster than before. “They can blaze through such processing-intensive tasks as ray-trace rendering and 360° video, which needs to combine 17 separate video streams,” he says. “What took 30 minutes to do with older technology now takes 30 seconds with Intel-powered Dell Precision workstations. Students can take more creative risks without having to wait a long time while a graphic idea gets rendered. And that’s not to mention just getting their work done much, much faster.”
For Rappaport and his three-member IT team, the priceperformance of the Dell Precision workstations and their reliability set them apart from what they could find elsewhere. “The price we got on the Dell Precisions was half that of comparable options, with 24×7 reliability thanks to Dell and Intel quality inside,” he says. “And while problems are rare, our Dell ProSupport team is expert and responsive. They get things fixed fast and don’t waste our time.”