31st Street Studios in the Strip District wants to be L.A. East

March 4, 2012 10:12 am
  • 31st Street Studios recently announced that it will be creating a large special effects motion capture studio.
    31st Street Studios recently announced that it will be creating a large special effects motion capture studio.
  • The outside of a set Fox built for a pilot called "Locke & Key" at 31st Street Studios.
    The outside of a set Fox built for a pilot called "Locke & Key" at 31st Street Studios.
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If its involvement in Pittsburgh is old school, the new will be provided by L.A.-based Knight Vision Studios and CMU's ETC Global.

Known here as Knight Vision31, the motion capture and digital production company was founded by James Knight. Mr. Knight was a key player in the "mo-cap" portion of James Cameron's "Avatar" before leaving to form his own company. Motion capture allows artists to use computer animation programs to create characters based on actors' movements.

Todd Eckert will head the KnightVision31 operation, arriving from a background of producing films and directing cinematics for video games. He even has donned one of those awful leotards embedded with computer chips -- "tight-fitting clothing is not something I naturally gravitate toward," he said, drily -- to play a character in the upcoming game, "Ride to Hell."

Graduate students in the ETC Global program will work with Knight Vision, as well as take classes on site. The hope would be that students trained on the system would eventually work for the company.

Mr. Eckert moved to Pittsburgh's North Side 11 years ago after working in the industry in Europe and L.A. In 2003, he wrote a Post-Gazette opinion piece that urged state legislators to approve film tax credits, with the goal of turning this into "today's media town."

Thanks to computer wizardry, a console in the Strip District can create scenes set on a beach or ski slopes -- or Mars.

"[With] digital effects or digital capture, those elements are possible absolutely anywhere," Mr. Eckert said. "So, like with any industry, where does it make the most sense to create this product?

"Pittsburgh has proven to be very aggressive in establishing not only the financial mechanisms that make sense, but also the facilities that can do every facet of production."

By the end of the month, much of Knight Vision31's equipment will be arriving, and an ETC classroom is being built.

"Having the Knight Vision system at 31st Street Studios will give ETC students a tremendous opportunity to advance filmmaking in Pittsburgh," said Don Marinelli, executive producer of ETC Global.

Student externships would be unpaid, but students would benefit from the experience. Classes on site could begin as early as the upcoming term. Although ETC has about 100 students in the grad program, the number interested in this specific technology is considerably lower.

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.
First Published 2012-03-03 23:03:33

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