Cinespace family gift opens doors to extraordinary experiential learning opportunities in motion media technology

May 30, 2016

Cinespace family gift opens doors to extraordinary experiential learning opportunities in motion media technology

Thanks to a $2.5 million gift from the Mirkopoulos family of Cinespace Film Studios, students in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design will have access to a state-of-the-art facility for learning and creation using pioneering motion media technologies in a professional industry setting.

The York University AMPD Motion Media Studio @ Cinespace, embedded in the company’s flagship Kipling Avenue complex, will open its doors this fall. Located next to sound stages being used for major television and feature film productions, the Motion Media Studio will offer students unparalleled experiential learning opportunities, with hands-on training in new media technologies as well as direct exposure to the industry they are preparing to join.

student wearing headset demos VR technology

Computational Arts student Suhail Othman demonstrates Organic Motion’s Reality CaptureLive VR technology in the AMPD Motion Media Studio at Cinespace. Photo by Michael Longford.

The Mirkopoulos gift was announced May 25 at a special event held at Cinespace to honour the donors and launch the new space. More than 80 guests from arts organizations, industry, academia and government were in attendance.

The AMPD Motion Media Studio @ Cinespace features two large sound stages comprising more than 6,500 square feet of working space, plus seminar rooms and a suite of smaller studios for enhanced future development.

The facility will enable students to explore the creation, convergence and application of next-generation arts and entertainment media technologies, with a focus on moving image production including 3D stereoscopic cinema; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; interactive performance; gaming; interactive data visualization, and more.


Graduate student Cyan Kuo demonstrates OpenStage 2 motion capture technology in the AMPD Motion Media Studio at Cinespace. Photo by Michael Longford

One of the powerful new technologies featured in the AMPD Motion Media Studio @ Cinespace is OpenStage 2, an advanced markerless motion capture system developed by New York-based company Organic Motion, that eliminates the need for bodysuits and markers currently used for film animation. With this cutting-edge technology, students will be able to create 3D animations, design interactive games and simulations, and integrate virtual performers for dance and theatre productions, without complicated setups.

The studio’s proximity to Cinespace’s commercial sound stages – where the movies Pompeii and Resident Evil were shot and CBS series Reign and American Gothic are currently in production – brings the potential for additional, extraordinary learning and professional development opportunities for AMPD students, such as master classes and first-hand observation of work-in-progress by leading directors, producers and cinematographers. AMPD faculty members will also use the Motion Media Studio as a lab for research and to develop innovative, technology-enriched courses.

AMPD Dean Sean Brixey at podium

AMPD Dean Shawn Brixey at the Motion Media Studio @ Cinespace launch event

“Integrating new and emerging technologies for screen media, digital media and performance, the Motion Media Studio @ Cinespace will support interdisciplinary exploration and creative production across AMPD, and set the stage for the invention of new forms of artistic expression,” said Shawn Brixey, dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. “It will electrify the imagination of a new generation of artists, and prepare our students to be front-runners in tomorrow’s creative digital sphere.”

Cinespace Vice President Jim Mirkopoulos said the gift came from the family’s desire to create a value-added experience for students. “Content creation is the new manufacturing in our economy,” he said. “Partnering with York will also keep Cinespace at the forefront of future cinema and new digital entertainment media.”

York’s longstanding partnership with the Mirkopoulos family and Cinespace began in 2001, when the company established several awards for student filmmakers.  Committed to supporting AMPD’s rising young talent, Cinespace became the founding sponsor of Cinesiege, an annual, professionally juried showcase of outstanding productions by York’s cinema and media arts students, now in its 14th year. In 2010 AMPD was approached by Cinespace Film Studios VP Jim Mirkopoulos to explore an industry partnered initiative to build capacity for stereoscopic 3D film production in Toronto. This led to the creation and success of 3DFLIC (Film Innovation Consortium), a pioneering academic/industry partnership. The Mirkopoulos family and Cinespace were also major contributors to York’s Accolade Project, which created the best, most extensive post-secondary arts school facilities in Canada, and houses the Nick Mirkopoulos Screening Room.

Members of the Mirkopoulos family

From left: Chrisoula, Steve, Larry, Jim and Mike Mirkopoulos

“The Mirkopoulos family and Cinespace Film Studios are kindred spirits to AMPD. They share our conviction that students are artists, innovators and creative forces in their own right; that creativity is today’s most sought-after skill; and that strong connections between industry and education are key to supporting our emerging cultural leaders,” said Brixey. “We are deeply grateful to the Mirkopoulos family, who champion this vision with such energy and enthusiasm, for their generous and ongoing support.”

The Mirkopoulos family’s gift  – one of the largest donations made to date to the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design – is a signal contribution to Impact: The Campaign for York University, an ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement initiative launched last month, and marks the debut of the AMPD Impact Campaign.