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ACMI Melbourne
15 December, 2017

Helping students engage virtually with top moving image creatives

Quality internet connectivity and the easy to use Zoom videoconference platform provides AARNet-connected schools with virtual access to some of the world’s top scientific and cultural experiences — regardless of their location or travel budget.

It also helps galleries, libraries, archives and museums – the GLAM sector – extend the reach of their programs to a national audience and experiment with global content.

These worlds collide at The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne, where the AARNet-hosted Zoom videoconferencing service is used to bring a popular outreach program to students across the country.

ACMI’s Meet the Makers program lets students engage virtually with video game designers, film directors, animators, TV producers, digital artists and other creatives from the moving image industry.

Reliable technologies to grow outreach

Bridget Hanna, Education Deliverer, explains how ACMI uses videoconferencing to meet demand from schools for access to creatives in the moving image industry.

“Our very first Meet the Makers session over three years ago was a huge success, and we realized how much demand there was for remote access to ACMI’s education programs.

“Videoconferencing and good-quality AARNet connectivity helps us reach an audience that may have difficulty coming to ACMI’s onsite sessions, for budgetary reasons or because of their location, including home schools, rural schools and interstate schools.”

The Meet the Makers program celebrates the moving image in all its forms, while teaching students about the different jobs that come with putting together a production.

“Meet the Makers provides creative insight for students as well as a space where classes can learn about industry pathways,” Bridget said.

“It provides students and teachers with access to high-level industry experts, and it’s interactive, which helps foster dialogue between industry creatives and the next generation of the moving image industry.”

Making new educational experiences possible

Over the last year, students met a diverse range of Makers including Gregory Erdstein & Alice Foulcher, who directed, wrote, actioned and produced the indie feature film That’s Not Me; Tara Allen, an Animator at Firemonkeys; and Merlin Crossingham, Creative Director at Aardman Studio (think Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep).

The 60-minute sessions take into consideration the needs of a remote audience. Educators are on-screen alongside the Maker to encourage conversation and ask questions, and Makers are helped to create engaging content to share during the sessions, including lots of images, clips and other virtual aids.

Supported by AARNet infrastructure

ACMI has a diverse, dark-fibre connection to the AARNet network, which provides high-bandwidth and low-latency connectivity on to many schools. ACMI also uses AARNet-hosted Zoom videoconferencing, meaning the Meet the Maker sessions are hosted on the AARNet network for an extremely high-quality experience.

Garry Westmore, who works with Bridget to co-ordinate and deliver the program, explains that Zoom’s interactive features make it more than just a video phone call.

“The Zoom service is particularly beneficial to our virtual conferencing programs as it allows for a multi-way dialogue with students and teachers.

“This is achieved using video and sound as well as Zoom’s chat function, which is used to ask questions during the sessions. Students also stay engaged because they can draw and select things on screen.”

Tips for a successful videoconference

To help schools make the most of their session, Garry recommends that students are allowed time to research before and after the videoconference.

“We really find that preparation helps students maximise the benefit of the experience, as does doing some follow up research once the videoconference has finished.

“During the videoconference, we provide links to resources for students who want to find out more about working in a particular field.”

The Meet the Makers program comes across as an empowering process for all involved, with positive feedback from students and Makers alike.

“Many schools join the sessions regularly, which is a good sign! They love that it’s a free program and we often receive emails after sessions with thanks from teachers who share the excitement from their students. What’s more, the Makers themselves always have a blast seeing students react to their work.”

As well as the benefits of Meet the Makers as a stand-alone program, many schools also incorporate it into their production process for Screen It, the largest moving image competition for students in Australia.

“By meeting creatives and asking specific questions about their own productions, students are often inspired in their Screen It creations,” Garry said.

More about Meet the Makers

The 2018 Meet the Makers program will be full of cutting-edge creatives who’ll help students see the future of the moving image industry.

Keep an eye on the ACMI website for updates when new sessions are confirmed.

Find out more about Zoom and how AARNet supports the education community.