Newswise — American University’s School of Communication is one of nine higher education institutions selected by Sony for an innovative new program that puts the newest media technology in the hands of students and faculty.

The field of communication has often been at the forefront of advanced visual technology, and SOC gives its students and faculty access to the most sophisticated visual equipment available. It’s that commitment to its students that formed the basis of AU’s new partnership with Sony and its participation in the Sony Digital Media Academy.

“The Sony Digital Media Academy will make it possible for us to bring together Film and Media Arts, along with online and broadcast journalism to create a laboratory that will explore and help define new media services and the new professional roles that are emerging in the digital age,” said School of Communication Dean Larry Kirkman. “Sony is creating a unique network of schools which are committed to innovation. We will learn a lot from each other and get smarter together.”

The Sony Digital Media Academy is an innovative program designed to give students and faculty the digital equipment necessary to create ground breaking media productions. The program gives AU the same commercial equipment found in the world’s largest media production studios including 3D Handycam® camcorders, VAIO® computers, Alpha DSLR cameras and Sony Tablets.

Bill Gentile, director of American University's Backpack Journalism Project, will introduce Sony DSLR technology to SOC Backpack courses on an experimental basis during the summer session of 2012, with full implementation in the Film and Media Arts curriculum during the fall semester, including a Backpack course for AU students studying abroad in Cuba. SDMA participation will have an immediate impact on the direction of the Backpack curriculum with the introduction of converged still/video technology. Gentile says the partnership with Sony gives him access to technology that is revolutionizing his field, “This technology that Sony is giving us is going to make my job an awful lot easier in that I can introduce students to what the professionals in the field are using. Now, I can help students to have impact here as well and not wait until they get out into the field.”

The national election season of 2012 presents a prime opportunity for SOC journalism students to take their broadcast production experience and apply it to converged digital coverage of the campaigns. In January, SOC fielded a team of university journalists covering the New Hampshire primary from their unique perspective, with more than thirty-five student producers, reporters, editors, and their faculty mentors. With the addition of Sony DSLR and digital audio technology, coverage will include up-to-the minute coverage and analysis from the sites of other key events in the 2012 election process, including the conventions and election night.

For Sony, the program represents a way of helping fulfill the needs of students who are putting together intriguing and cutting edge proposals that can only be completed with the use of new technology.

“The program is designed to expose students to the latest Sony technologies and equipment, building on mutually beneficial goals, in order to help education to stay ahead of the curve and evolve with the ever-changing landscape of technologies,” said Steve Zimmer, Business Development Manager at Sony Electronics. “There is a shared commitment and investment with the schools and we will help facilitate the development of production, research and curriculum with new Sony products.”

Dean Kirkman has a relationship with SONY going back three decades, and when he came to SOC he began leveraging his connections to benefit the School. Over the years we have frequent contact with Lou Gershenson, Broadcast Account Manager, Sony Broadcast and Production. Among other things, Gershenson was instrumental in securing Sony B-stock equipment from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for SOC's HD studio build-out.

The other participants in the program are Drexel University's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design; New York University's Tisch School of the Arts; School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Florida State University's College of Motion Picture Arts; UC San Diego Division of Arts ; UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television; University of Central Florida's College of Arts & Humanities; and the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.