Smart Zones Support Innovative Projects at the RCA

The Royal College of Art's Smart Zones are dedicated digital spaces providing general and specialist training facilities and a wide range of software applications for moving image, print and programming. The digital editing stations provide a combination of high-powered PC and Apple workstations. All are networked and equipped with video-editing and image-manipulation software, each complete with full audio capability.

This autumn the RCA expanded into new facilities at White City. Within the regenerated BBC Media Village the College has created an academic community of more than 600 students and staff in what is already becoming a hub for the creative industries. At White City, the Smart Zone provides a range of software training and project support for students across the College. All sessions are free and typically cover core skills as well as specialist training tailored to pathways and programmes.

Digital Direction is one of the MA programmes making use of these facilities at White City. This new MA programme within the School of Communication addresses media and storytelling in the digital era and equips students with the critical and technical skills to lead new approaches across emerging digital platforms.

‘The Smart Zone is a really important place for students to explore technologies and practices, often outside of timetabled sessions,’ explains Digital Direction Senior Tutor Dr Eleanor Dare. ‘This term, students had classes in Cinema 4D – a 3D modelling platform – and some of them went on to produce really interesting work on digital identities.’

She continued: ‘MA Digital Direction students also have timetabled sessions in the Smart Zone on, for example, coding in JavaScript. The Smart Zone technicians and tutors are highly skilled and a crucial component of the RCA academic experience, they help our students to use a wide range of technologies which are vital to understanding today's complex media landscapes.’

In a typical week in the Smart Zone, technicians run inductions for preparing files for 3D laser cutting, coding, programming, electronics and visual effects. Appointment-based and drop-in sessions are also available in which instructors deliver one-to-one support and students can discuss individual projects.

The Smart Zones are just part of the technical provision on offer to students at the RCA. The Mechatronics Labs include bench areas with extraction so that students can explore combinations of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering, sensory, haptic, AI and machine learning. These facilities are complemented by rapid prototyping, digital making facilities and 3D workshops, such as a wood workshop, metal fabrication, engineering, plastics workshop and a resin and moulding studio, as well as specialist fashion, textiles, print making, ceramics and glass resources. Technical facilities are open to all RCA students subject to an induction and based on academic need.

The Royal College of Art acknowledges with gratitude the sponsorship of LG for their LG UltraWide Monitors that are used in the SmartZone at White City.

Find out more about the Digital Direction MA programme and how to apply.