The Duderstadt Center on the north campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers an electronic music studio, a digital media tools lab, a virtual reality cave, multimedia collaboration rooms and a recently overhauled, state-of-the-art recording studio. At the heart of the Walters-Storyk Design Group renovation lies a new API Vision console that allows its users to intelligently mix in both stereo and surround formats simultaneously. The API Vision is available to any University of Michigan student provided the student receives certification on its use.
The API Vision gets a regular workout in three of the Performing Arts and Technology Department's classes. "We're effectively calibrating our students' ears and brains so that their baseline standard is pristine analog sound," says David Greenspan, audio resources coordinator. "When they hear other technologies or manipulations, they'll be able to hear and mitigate artifacts. That was reason enough to get an API console. With the Vision, however, students are also learning to explore and conceptualize movement in space and time and to think in both stereo and surround at a fundamental level."
As a way to integrate the various disciplines found in the music industry, the department created a record label, Block M Records, which ran a contest early in the fall 2006 semester. Students from all over the campus were encouraged to submit a song, and a panel of judges (including architect John Storyk) selected eight winners. Those winners were then recorded on the API Vision in a beginning recording class, with students in a producer's class stepping in to produce each song. Block M Records posted the final, polished songs on iTunes.
In addition to student use, the university's faculty has incorporated the new API Vision into their research projects. Among them is a project that explores the optimal microphone technique and optimal placement of speakers for spatial imaging of stereo and surround recordings. Researchers use the API Vision in conjunction with the Duderstadt Center's 3-D graphics lab and virtual reality cave to push the envelope on three-dimensional sound.
"The installation process was smooth with API there at every step," says Greenspan. "To say our students love the Vision would be an understatement. They recognize that it's quite a privilege to have open access to such powerful technology, and it's been inspiring to witness the growth in sophistication and creativity of their mixing choices."