Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor and author Peter Thiel speaks at Wallis Annenberg Hall.
USC Annenberg / Brett Van Ort

New Wallis Annenberg Hall Auditorium Offers Ideal Location for Teaching

The new Wallis Annenberg Hall auditorium is well equipped to host small classes or large events due to its perfect layout and design.

The space has made it possible to host high profile guests with ease. The second day the auditorium was used, television personality, Julie Chen attended senior lecturer, Mary Murphy’s class.

In fact, the space has been instrumental in letting more students join Murphy’s JOUR 381: Entertainment Business and Media class by RSVP when she invites special guests. This is something Murphy couldn’t have done in her previous classes.

“Last week I had my regular class, but I also had 120 students who attended as guests,” Murphy said. “Unlike a regular classroom, this is a classroom where you can bring big name speakers and additional students can attend.”

Murphy is one of the handful of USC Annenberg lecturers and professors who gets a chance to teach in the new auditorium. Although she enjoys the ability of inviting more students into her classroom, Murphy thinks the best part of teaching in ANN auditorium is the intimacy of the space.

“You can have as few as 30 students in there and it doesn’t feel too big, and you can have as many as 135 students and it doesn’t feel too small just because of the layout,” Murphy said. “It’s a very striking looking room, so I think it adds a lot of drama to the environment.”

Henry Jenkins, provost professor of communications, journalism and cinematic arts, teaches COMM 202: Communication and Technology in ANN auditorium and, like Murphy, loves the intimacy the room creates due to its structure.

“I have been spending more time roaming the aisles interacting with students and less time behind the podium speaking down to the gathered masses,” Jenkins said. “This is very much in the spirit of how I was planning to teach this subject but the room's configuration has made it much easier to really interact with students.”

ANN auditorium is made up of 160 seats and is divided into three sections of comfortable seating. Light-colored wood decorates the auditorium and a few wooden panels cover red walls with white abstract designs. Several ceiling lights help to generously illuminate the space. The functionality aspect of the ANN auditorium was actually inspired by the ASC auditorium, Chuck Boyles said, the director of multimedia technology for USC Annenberg.

About five years ago, he helped renovate the ASC auditorium to what he described as a “hybrid of presentation and production.”
New cameras were added to the auditorium so classes and events could be recorded at a broadcast level, Boyles said.
The renovation was such a success that when the ANN auditorium was being designed, Boyles knew he wanted to replicate the same functionality of the ASC auditorium, but also take it a step further.
“The biggest difference between the two auditoriums is that the new one is all digital whereas the ASC auditorium still has some analog components,” Boyles said.
Above the ANN auditorium is the control room where multiple TV screens are clustered together, focusing on the stage below where a lecturer speaks to students. A large projector that rests in the center of the control room leans against a glass window and it faces a grand white screen above the stage. The projector is just one of the new digital gears added into the space and it creates crisp images for its audience.
“This is literally a movie theater, but its built to have classes,” Boyles said. The control room also has three robotic cameras that can record events and even add presentation material into the recording itself. Once recordings are complete, they are posted onto Annenberg’s YouTube channel.
“We have complete robotic control of the three cameras, and we can do cuts between takes as well as do basic TV transitions,” Boyles said. Despite the novelty of the ANN auditorium, the ASC auditorium will continue to be used and host events like the Visions and Voices series in addition to other proceedings.