Drexel University The Westphal College of Media Arts and Design has launched one of the first accredited virtual reality and immersive media programs. In 2018, Drexel University’s Animation, Capture and Effects Lab, known as ACE-Lab, introduced immersive media including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR ) and other interactive experiences. Today, Drexel’s virtual reality and immersive media programs continue to be a leader in its field, teaching and engaging students with the latest processes and technologies.
In early 2021, Drexel University introduced new immersive multimedia technology that provides students with in-depth and hands-on learning experiences. Drexel University collaborated with Scalable display technologies to create a cost effective and realistic solution for traditional LED screens used in immersive environments.
“The typical immersive media environment is incredibly expensive,” said Nicholas Jushchyshyn, director of the virtual reality and immersive media program at Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. “We wanted to use projection, rather than LED walls, to create a cost effective solution. We worked with Scalable to create a high-quality solution to create an immersive multimedia environment without the cost of LED screens. We are using a screen that is 10 feet wide and 12 feet high. It’s an existing screen that we have on site. The talent has traditional studio lights on it, but they are not overexposed and the projection background can be pure white. It is the result of two synchronized, calibrated, distorted and superimposed laser projectors. It creates the same intensity as a traditional LED video wall, but from two projectors. Scalable allowed us to take two laser projectors and stack the projections with perfect layering.
The ACE-Lab is not only used for immersive media programs, but also by many other graduate and undergraduate programs, including animation, visual effects, and digital design. Drexel University needed to implement a system that would accommodate other programs using the space.
“For us, there were many benefits to using projection instead of LED screens,” Jushchyshyn said. “Not only is it much cheaper, but it’s incredibly flexible if we want to use it in a different location. The space we use for production is a multipurpose space. We designed the whole system on a mobile cart. We can maintain the versatility of the room by being able to move the projectors. A side benefit of this particular approach is the future-proof design. We are currently using a 12 foot wall, but we may add another wall in the future and create a full projection surface on a larger space. Using Scalable’s software we can project side by side and have overlapping blending between images.
Scalable’s software automatically distorts and merges multiple projectors into a single, seamless display. It allows Drexel University to streamline recalibration if the system has been moved. “We’ve worked with Scalable for the past 20 years,” Jushchyshyn said. “We are involved in dome projection and building projection, which is how we were initially introduced to Scalable. It was only from the studio app that we used Scalable in a very unique way. Scalable provides opportunities, especially for schools and independent productions, to work with immersive media technology. They can incorporate the same software implications and tools as cinema-grade LED walls, motion capture, and camera tracking. It is the same technology as a large production but at a more accessible price.