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Center for Digital Imaging Arts leads move to video podcasting

Regularly scheduled content will soon be available for download

By the end of this semester, students at Boston University who are unable to make it to class may wind up catching their lectures on iPods. BU is one of at least a dozen universities working with Apple Computer to set up a customized section of the iTunes Music store to distribute audio and video content.

Appropriately, the school that is leading the charge to online audio and video is the one that teaches it: the College of Communication’s Waltham-based Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA), which offers two-semester certificate programs in digital photography, digital filmmaking, 3-D animation, graphic and interactive design, and recording arts.

Last month, CDIA started to make available for download audio files of student team project meetings, and Bob Daniels, the center’s executive director, says that by mid-February it will offer two regularly scheduled video downloads. One, a weekly podcast called CDIA Today, will feature conversations with faculty and students and showcase their projects. The other, Imaging Masters Series, is a monthly podcast that will present professional digital filmmakers, photographers, and animators talking about their work.

In the first podcast of CDIA Today, David Tames, director of media and technology at the center, interviews Lou Jones, CDIA codirector of photography, about his 22 years of shooting the Olympics. The inaugural Imaging Masters Series podcast will feature a discussion with Cary Wollinsky (COM’68), a former Boston Globe photographer and the center’s other codirector of photography, who has been shooting photos for National Geographic, Newsweek,  Smithsonian, and Natural History for 37 years. For the short term at least, CDIA’s audio and video will be hosted on the center’s own servers, rather than those at iTunes.

“We see podcasting as a tremendous opportunity,” says Daniels. “Ever since Apple unveiled its fifth-generation iPod last October, the first portable digital player with video capabilities, a new medium is available for our students to display their creativity.  Students will now be able to create short films for a portable media player, have a global audience, and receive instant feedback.”

Daniels (COM’70, SED’76, GSM’79) sees the technology as a way to augment teaching, or as a learning aid for a student who misses an occasional practicum meeting because of an unavoidable scheduling conflict or an illness. “What really makes sense for us is to offer podcasts of material that supplements classwork,” he says.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the efforts of colleges to make course work downloadable. In the past year, for example, Apple has been testing its new service, called iTunes U, with several schools, including Brown, Duke, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin.

And while some critics worry that the technology will replace the crucial interaction between professors and students that defines a college education, proponents are quick to argue that the practice will do more good than harm.

“Podcasting is a tool for our students to express themselves and to learn from many of the top instructors and practitioners in their fields,” says Daniels. “It’s a great distribution vehicle for not only their work, but their professors.”