The Australian film and television industry has always inspired innovation, and now it’s inspired a new Melbourne laneway.
In 2004, the soundstage of ‘House of Wax’, in Queensland, caught fire during a scene involving pyrotechnics. While all escaped without incident, the cast and crew were forced to flee in life-threatening circumstances. The 2004 fire, although a drastic example, set the tone for the next decade where film studios across the country closed their doors for the last time. Hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), companies universally reduced their advertising budgets.
During the GFC, the Australian dollar also reached parity with the US, putting an abrupt stop to American productions shooting in Australia. They questioned the benefits of moving production offshore when the cost remained the same to shoot at home.
So rapid was the drop in value of the US dollar, by the time Guillermo Del Toro’s production of ‘Don’t be Afraid of the dark’, shooting in Melbourne, went from pre-production into principal photography, its budget had risen from $35 million (US dollars), to over $70 million US.
The next few years were incredibly hard on the Australian film industry, and the reality is government funding was the only thing that kept it alive – a dripping tap that kept just enough water in the pond for the fish during the drought. The industry today, economically speaking, is relatively healthy, with a constant stream of television drama and feature films shooting across the country. The rebirth of the industry, now needing to crew both local and large international style productions brings a new problem – a serious lack of skilled labour and studio spaces.
Thankfully, education intuitions are stepping up to the plate and helping on both fronts.
Construction of the Media Precinct in the New Academic Street (NAS) at Melbourne Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is a world first, and provides a blueprint for universities across the globe. Never before has an education institution built four state of the art TV studios, fitted out with ultra-high definition cameras, electronic lighting grid and fibre optic infrastructure. The Media Precinct also has the capability to broadcast to live television from control rooms that are large enough to accommodate a class of 25 at the same time. And students are not the only ones excited. David Beesley, Technical Services Manager of the Media and Communications schools said “Ultimately, the studios will be some of the most advanced in the southern hemisphere. Industry is terribly excited, including Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Channel 10 and various other production companies – they have all expressed interest in renting the space. Universities across Australia are trying to catch up, because this is the new benchmark. There is a huge amount of interest. However, from our perspective we are not interested in running this as a commercial facility, it’s all about the student experience. We will entertain industry partners so long as there is a benefit to students, such as work-integrated learning opportunities.”
World-class studios are not the only things on offer as part of the NAS redevelopment. Leading down to the polished concrete Media Street from RMIT Connect is a bright, multi-coloured staircase; enticing students to explore the space below. Standing at the bottom of the stairs The Media Street runs for about 200 meters, with break out spaces cut into the walls on the side and green couches that look like they are straight out of a science fiction film. Every few meters the walls change colour, making the space bright and dynamic.
Steel cable carriageways hang from the walkway above. The walkway feels more like a mezzanine level, winding back and forth and offering up unique viewpoints to the Media Street below. And what Melbourne laneway wouldn’t be complete without a cafe at one end, such is the luck of the students and staff. Across the laneway from the café, will be the new location of ABC’s ‘Fact Check’ organisation, providing rare work-integrated learning opportunities for post grad journalism students. The combination of the contemporary architecture and fit out- that encourages collaboration between departments, world-class production facilities and is situated right in the heart of Melbourne creates a vibe that is sure to nurture and develop even the most stubborn creative.
The construction of the Media Precinct has been a complex collaboration between the architecture firm Lyons, headed by Adam Pustola, Lend Lease builders and RMIT’s AV department, headed by David Beesely. Adam Pustola, lead architect, was particularly excited about the media precinct “The media precinct came into the project a bit later in the piece. It was a great addition because the spaces it is replacing were a lot of pretty grungy back of house spaces. Such as an engineering and heavy structure labs, with smashed concrete beams, these spaces are important for a university, but perhaps not appropriate for prime Swanston street real estate.”
At the forefront of the development, on the prominent corner of Swanston and Franklin Street is the new Media Portal. It features three entrances and high glass windows to advertise university life to the outside world. This large, open space has been built to accommodate grander occasions such as live music, fashion shows, product launches and publicity events. Previously, RMIT students and staff have had to rent space off campus for such events. The proximity of the Media Portal to the studio control rooms, and installation of fibre optic ports means streaming to the web, or broadcasting live television couldn’t be any easier. “The technology inside is embracing current industry paradigms, which means students will be perfectly set up moving forward into a complete digital environment once out in industry. The school of Media And Communication is the largest within RMIT. With over 600 students enrolled each year. But we also want throw open usage to anyone in the university who is interested in using it. And spaces like the Media Portal will encourage collaboration across areas of the school that previously haven’t. Like fashion or art and the TV department” – David from RMIT.
The proximity of Swanston Street also presents some unique challenges, especially for functional TV studios. The constant rattle of trams passing by was to be expected, but trains running directly underneath and the construction of a new metro station wasn’t obvious in the initial planning phase. It’s quite lucky then that there was extensive consultation, done over many years in the planning phase, resulting in “Studios A and B adopting BBC class 1 standards. This means the entire studio is isolated from the rest of the building structure. Floating concrete slabs sit on rubber footing, all the steel work and the walls reside on that slab, isolating the studio from any structural born vibration.” – David from RMIT. Adam from Lyons adds,“To isolate the structural noise, the structure itself is quite technically sophisticated, and a lot of work went in to those.”
The media precinct is scheduled to open at the beginning of Semester 2, 2017. However, some delays in construction, due to some mishaps along the way, means it’s more likely to open in August 2017. The delay is a disappointment, but understandable when you consider there is no blueprint for a world first project like this.
Nathan Hart has over 12 years experience in the Australian Film and television industry, having survived the GFC and now witnessing the industry’s rebirth first hand.
After almost two years at RMIT I finally navigated the bureaucratic nightmare that is setting up the printers. Conveniently, there have just been more printers introduced as part of the New Academic street redevelopment, so likely no waiting – which is cool, because everyone knows waiting for a photocopy is less enjoyable than waiting for a dirty porto loo at a 3 day festival.
Linking my student card to the printers took up 80% of a 3 hour break that I had officially scheduled for snacking and napping. Absolute nightmare. To save you the time, here are my steps to get you printing your friends cheat sheet in no more than 15 minutes because they did the reading and you didn’t.
The first thing you need to do is send the document to the printer queue. To do this you need log into myRMIT (not blackboard) and then goto ‘My Desktop’ under the applications tab.
Click on ‘Desktop’ in the top banner and follow to the ‘RMIT Desktop’ on the next screen. It will take 30 seconds or so to log in.
Then just simply drag and drop what ever document you want to print from a finder window onto the desktop, when prompted select ‘desktop’ – you cant put it elsewhere but don’t ever expect to find it again.
Once it’s uploaded, open it by double clicking. Im printing the photo I took of the printer because I’m into existentialism. Then just select print and follow the prompts to add it to the print queue. You will probably get a message ‘printer has stopped’ or ‘printer is paused’ this is as to be expected.
Now you need to go to an actual printer, this one is in the very snazzy new RMIT CONNECT. Firstly, approach the wretched machine with self loathing, because there is no product that signifies how boring we the human race has become more than a photocopying machine. Every single one of them should of been put in landfill when people started using snap chat to send nudes instead of photocopying their butt.
You can swipe your student card on this scanner thing instead of just entering your student number. If your student card is a little worse for wear and it doesn’t register – just like everything you heard in your 8am lecture – you can enter your student number instead.
If this is the first time you have used your card student number with the printer you need to link it. To do this enter your full student email, and password – good luck remembering that bad boy, especially you have to change it every 90 days and have it in a format that is best described as ‘you will never remember this combination’.
The Finish Line
And finally, once you’ve done all of this, your print queue will appear and you should be able to see the document you uploaded before. The whole process, once familiar, should take no more than 3-4 minutes. So if your friend sends you their cheat sheet 15 minutes before the test, you have at least another ten minutes of napping.
This video was shot in 4K with a Samsung Galaxy S7 and edited in Final Cut Pro. The intended impact of this video is to highlight the locations that were an inspiration for the NAS project, in an interesting and engaging manner for a younger audience. Music used is “Still Runnin – Hip Hop – royalty free music: Vodovoz Music Productions”.
This piece is a student work, some details may not be completely accurate.