Australian College of the Arts, known as Collarts, is a rapidly expanding creative arts institution located in Melbourne, Australia. The school has gained a reputation through its 30-year history for delivering high-quality education that keeps students on the cutting-edge of evolving demands, trends, and technology in the creative industries. It’s also an Avid Learning Partner, with the official Pro Tools curriculum baked into the coursework, enabling staff to teach and certify students on the tools and workflows needed in the field to put them ahead in the job market.
We spoke with the head of the Audio Production department, Jason Torrens, who’s been at Collarts since its beginning, to learn more about the college and its offerings, what makes it special, and how Avid plays a role in both.
What kind of school is Collarts?
Collarts is short for Australian College of the Arts, and we’re taking that title pretty seriously as we expand our course offerings. Collarts offers a wide range of diplomas and degrees, and by the time I name them all, there will likely be a new one added. We started with Music Performance, Entertainment Management, and Audio Production, and now, we have over 12 different disciplines on offer, including Interior Design, Animation and VFX, Screen and Media, Fashion and Sustainability, and much more. We also recently added Photography, Comedy, and even some post-graduate degrees.
Fast expansion has always been the trend—we can’t build the campuses fast enough. And it helps that we even have an awesome marketing team that has worked to create a strong and accurate visual representation of what it’s like at Collarts: fun, cool, cutting-edge, and highly inclusive.
What degrees are popular at Collarts?
Right now, Music Performance and Music Production are two of the most popular degrees. People want to play, sing, and make beats, so there’s a lot of interest in these disciplines. And, having recently begun offering most of our courses with a fully online option, we are finding even more expansion around the country and even some new students from overseas.
What fields and jobs do audio students typically go into after Collarts?
Graduates from the Audio Engineering degree find themselves in quite a wide variety of work environments. Live sound and the AV industry are both common, which we see as very important growth areas for employment opportunities. Post production is also the obvious strong area which we’ve had some students find work in. We’re pushing hard to be the leader in feeding that industry with quality graduates as we grow. Other areas include studio work, the installation industry, events, and even audio forensics and audiology. It’s really an amazing world—students take what we teach them and use what they’ve learned across a massive arena of opportunities, depending on their interests.
What role does Pro Tools play at Collarts?
Pro Tools plays a central role in the audio engineering degree and it’s an option for other students in one of our electives. The audio engineering degree has Pro Tools 101 and 110 integrated into the degree, which, therefore, gets our students their “User” certification as part of their normal curriculum.
All of our Music Production students are also exposed to Pro Tools, but it’s not as tightly ingrained into that degree as it is in Audio Engineering. We’re planning to extend this into the operator levels with music, post, and live sound too, because as a school, you have to teach what the industry is using—and they’re using Pro Tools.
Collarts has two rooms with full Pro Tools | HDX setups. In Studio One, we’ve combined an SSL AWS 48 with a matching 48 channels of Pro Tools | HD I/O, Pro Tools | SYNC HD, and all the lovely Avid software that goes with that. And in our Theatrette, we also have Pro Tools | HDX, as well as a Pro Tools | MRTX, Pro Tools | SYNC HD, and an Avid S6 console, all connecting with the Dolby® RMU and 20 JBL speakers—most of them 7 series. This room is a showcase for Avid, Dolby, and what’s possible for the current standard of post production.
Aside from these rooms, we have Pro Tools Ultimate set up on more than 80 computers in our computer labs, as well as six set up in other studios. We also have plans to expand more into the Avid environment with an [Avid VENUE] S6L, Media Composer, and an Avid NEXIS—at least. In addition, we run Sibelius for the music performance department with me and one other teacher certified to teach Sibelius to our students.
Why Pro Tools? How do your students react to learning the software?
A production student said very recently, “The courses that get you familiar with Pro Tools make you want to use it.” Our students love having the skills in the platform and seeing what it can enable them to do, and they’re always amazed at how deep it can go. Plus, the fact that Pro Tools is the leader for studio work and post production gives them the confidence and assurance that they possess the skills that are employable.
Our audio department feels a great benefit from having the Avid curriculum embedded in the courses. It allows students to work through a set series of steps that make sense, and it makes the learning and teaching smoother—especially when students see the tools in action in the various contexts, like recording studios and post workflows. Once students are certified, it’s very encouraging to see how quickly they add their certification to their resume. Our students get jobs from having their certification on their resume all the time.
How was Collarts able to overcome the challenge of remote learning?
Collarts rose to the challenge when we needed to adopt remote learning. Students were able to control mixing consoles like the Avid S6, live sound consoles, and even lighting rigs from home, and from anywhere in the world. And the Avid education curriculum was able to continue as usual, which shows the amazing capability of Avid’s tools and platforms to work remotely. Plus, Avid provided software for the students and allowed exams to take place online… it felt like a family of legends making the impossible not so impossible.
One of our students who learned Dolby Atmos during a lockdown did such amazing work that it’s currently featured on the Dolby website.
What’s in store for the future of Collarts?
Collarts has plans to integrate more Avid solutions into our education because it simply works. From Media Composer in the Screen & Media degree to the VENUE | S6L and live sound certifications, and even through to the more high-level “Operator” certifications that our students can complete.
The benefits of our integrated Avid education doesn’t end when students graduate. The industry connections that come with being a part of the Avid family are simply not found elsewhere. From Avid Learning Central to the Avid Media Campus, we are seeing our future looking quite bright with our Avid associations.
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