Professor talks technology, film, HDTV, future of FDM

By Ryan Daugherty

Dr. Corey Carbonara, a professor in the film and digital media department, has been a professor at Baylor for 30 years. He has contributed much to Baylor’s film department along with other film professors.
Carbonara sat down in an interview to talk about his time here, some of the research he has worked with and what he talks with his students about in the classroom.

Q: At one of the basketball games this season you, Dr. Michael Korpi, professor of film and digital media, and some FDM students were researching with new live-action technology. Can you explain exactly what that was?
A: It’s called the Mobile DTV project. What it refers to is the fact that when television moved from analog to digital television there was spectrum that was given to each of the broadcasters to make that transition.
During the time that was moving that way, the thought was that the U.S. should be thinking about a more mobile reception of high-definition signals rather than just looking at them being sent to a dwelling place or to an office.
What about how people are moving. What that does is it opens up opportunities for broadcasters to be looking at other types of arrangements or venues.
One of the venues that came to our mind and to the industry’s mind was we were looking at spectator sports. With the spring timeframe, it was determined that Baylor would be chosen by an industry group to really test out an in-venue opportunity to be able to broadcast multiple cameras to audiences that would have the receptor attached to their mobile phone or to an iPad and be able to receive those images.

Q: What were some of the student opinions of the experiment?
A: Generally, the opinions were very favorable. They thought it was phenomenal because you could choose between four different views. One of the views was a view of all four cameras and three of the other cameras were on the different channels. One of them was switched as an output feed that would have gone to the actual image magnification screens inside of the Ferrell Center.
The fact that you could do that was one they were very interested in. The second one was that there was a little bit of a delay. People are used to live transmission and the fact that there was a delay meant that if they looked away or got up and came back, they could actually see the play.”

Q: What is SMPTE Fellows?
A: Dr. Korpi and I have the distinction of both being fellows of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. That’s an agency or a group of professionals that really started from the very first time film began, so Thomas Alva Edison was a fellow which puts us in really great company.
The fellow’s distinction is done by peers. They select you. It’s nothing you apply for; they recognize your work. What’s neat about Baylor is we have one of the longest standing and running student chapters of SMPTE. We actually started it back in 1984. We applied and got status to start our SMPTE chapter and we have been a SMPTE chapter ever since.

Q: What are some other contributions you have made to Baylor?
A: A lot of this has been done with other colleagues. With Dr. Korpi, we had accomplished a resurge in a number of really interesting areas when HDTV was in its infancy. We wound up doing some important tests that show the difference between film and HDTV.
We had a series of road racing documentary shorts that we did; one was called “Fast Cars 1” and the other was called “Fast Cars 2.”
“It was a way for us to show a lot of the engineering community and a lot of the artists and directors that were out there.
“Fast Cars 2” was interesting because that one was actually comparison of 35 mm film with super 16 mm film intercut together and had the distinction of being the very first transfer to HD of film that was done using a new recording process. Because of the amount of HD material we have shot since 1986 to the present, we have been approached by the industry to do other things, including researching for an international standards body.
Q: What are some other groups you have been a part of?
A: We’ve been involved with Steadicam and we’ve been involved with SONY.
When I left SONY I had a really good relationship with them personally and they began their relationship with Baylor by providing equipment as early as 1989. We were the very first university in the world to have access to HDTV equipment.
When people were just trying to figure out what it stood for, we already were producing programs out of Baylor with students having those types of skills.

Q: In the classroom, what are some ideals you teach your students?
A: For me, I think it’s the mixture of theory and practice. I think it’s so important for students to understand, especially in the arts, that there’s an industry behind all of this. There’s really this mix of understanding how theory is important in terms of visual theory or in terms of audio.
I always like to make sure that they are combined with very practical applications. I really believe firmly that one of the most beautiful things about being able to teach here at Baylor is the fact that we can bring ethics and we can talk about integrity and we can bring our faith.

Q: How do you feel about Baylor’s film department and the direction it is heading? How has it improved ever since you came here?
A: It has changed a lot. By 1982-83 I think there were about 80 majors total. The major emphasis at that time was training people to be anchors on the news. We certainly saw the scope change from Dr. Korpi’s leadership.
Both he and I felt we needed to expand the social impact side and the criticism of film and television. We have seen the quality of film making grow.
We’re much more rounded now and I just think the contributions of my colleagues are phenomenal. I love being in an environment where I like everybody I work with.