25, No. 8, Oct. 20, 2005
the job: Jeff Carpenter
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
by Kwame Ross
is a multimedia specialist at the National Center
for Supercomputing Applications.
When Jeff Carpenter
was a theater major at Illinois State University, the aspiring actor
dreamed of a career in Hollywood working with iconic directors in the
entertainment industry. And that dream has come true, although it has
been Carpenter’s behind-the-scenes work with videography and high-tech
communications that has sparked collaboration with the producer Mikel
Rouse and garnered attention at the annual conference of SIGGRAPH, an
international association for professionals in the computer-graphics
and interactive-programs industry. After changing his major from theater
to broadcasting and graduating from ISU with a degree in mass communications
in 1988, Carpenter directed evening newscasts and public affairs shows
at WICD-TV, directed fund drives for WILL-TV and did free-lance work
for other media, including ESPN and MTV Sports. He joined the National
Center for Supercomputing Applications’ staff full time as a multimedia
specialist in 1996. Carpenter recently revived his acting career by
playing three roles in the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company’s
Production of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” He also
is a member of the medieval re-enactment group, The Order of St. Sebastian,
and has taken courses in makeup artistry.
me about your job at NCSA.
I am very lucky to be involved in a variety of interesting projects.
I do video production and streaming media for the center, and the Access
Grid has become a large part of my work. It’s a collaborative
environment that allows people in multiple locations to come together
in real time. I call it videoconferencing on steroids. You can share
your data, do presentations, and recently people have been exploring
interactive artistic performances with people at multiple locations
thousands of miles away. My co-producer at Boston University and I have
worked together to enable several conferences on the Access Grid, including
the annual Supercomputing Conference and the SIGGRAPH conference in
Los Angeles at the end of July. The Access Grid was part of the emerging
technologies showcase at SIGGRAPH.
are other uses for the grid besides meetings?
Using the Access Grid as an interactive distributed performance space
is just starting to be experimented with. Also courses are starting
to be taught over the Access Grid. We have participated in computer
programming classes with a teacher at the Ohio State University and
students from across the country, Canada and the United Kingdom.
I’ve also been involved in the Seedbed Initiative for Transdomain
Creativity, which blends the arts and humanities with technology.
I and others at the NCSA worked with faculty members from the School
of Architecture, staff at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and
producer Mikel Rouse on his multimedia opera “The End of Cinematics,”
which debuted on Sept. 17 at Krannert. We provided a lot of the visual
components. I took Rouse’s movie and split it up onto six projected
screens, removed various actors from scenes and created the digital
backdrops for the live performance. The production is now on an international
The experience was amazing; I really loved it. It was a chance to be
creative and stretch my skills in a way that I hadn’t done before.
It was very rewarding and was very well received, so I was happy to
be part of that.
kinds of projects are you working on right now?
I shot a lot of video of the NCSA building being built, and we’re
putting together a promotional piece about NCSA to be shown in a kiosk.
If a scientist needs visualizations or a video on their work for a presentation,
or if a student needs a video resume of their work, I also do that.
What do you do in the Order of St. Sebastian?
We portray characters from the Year 1347 that we’ve created. St.
Sebastian is the patron saint of archers, so our group portrays a group
of bowmen. The persona I created is named Gryffydd Saer, ‘saer’
being Welsh for ‘carpenter,’ and he is the son of a carpenter,
as I am. I’ve been learning about bow making and have made two
bows that we use in encampments at renaissance fairs, such as the Jubilee
Renaissance Faire at Peoria.
How long have you been working with the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company?
That was my first show with them. The dancing was a challenge. In high
school and college, I was in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Oklahoma”
and “Lone Star.”