While upgrading St. Cloud State University‘s broadcast center, Derrick Silvestri kept the 80’s in mind.
The studio, first designed in the late 1980’s, was “outfitted with the best equipment you can possibly buy at the time,” says Silvestri, SCSU’s TV studio manager and University Television Station advisor. “My whole theory was we’re going to build this like we did back then, with the best stuff there is.”
Since starting the studio’s upgrades in 2006, the studio is finally ready for lights, camera and action this coming school year.
Silvestri says the studio has a dual purpose: to facilitate the needs of the Mass Communications department and provide a lab space for current students to utilize for communications classes.
“It’s integrated together,” he says. “It’s one big happy family.”
Silvestri says that even though the studio usually covers sports and news content, the upgrades will give the department more flexibility with content coverage.
“This year we’re going to migrate into producing some music and choir concerts out of our auditorium,” he says. “We’ve done them in the past, but never in HD.”
The updated studio earned SCSU its own HD sports channel on Charter Communcations, and can be viewed by Charter customers throughout Minnesota and in a handful of surrounding states.
“That’s something you don’t hear a lot of colleges being given,” Silvestri says. “That’s another opportunity to showcase the university.”
He also says the studio broadens the university’s curriculum and gives students a taste of real-world broadcasting.
“Whole curriculum teaches student on the most current equipment out there,” Silvestri says. “It’s preparing students for stuff that they’ll actually see and use and learn out there.”
The studio features three bundled solutions from Edit Share (which were integrated by Alpha Video): XStream, which provides high performance storage, Ark Tape, which backs up and archives content, and Flow Browse, which provides media asset management.
Jeff Barnes, Director of WorkFlow Design at EditShare, says that technology Silvestri chose for the studio collaborates threefold to store and process content.
“[These] are appealing to higher ed[ucation],” he says. “It’s three products we make under one roof…EditShare covers a large umbrella of systems integrated together.”
Silvestri says his decision to purchase EditShare products was determined by the studio’s workflow needs, price tag, and user-friendly capabilities.
“That’s what put us forward with the type of equipment I’ve chosen, [based on] the workflow and how it works,” he says. “For the editing side of things, Edit Share fit our price point, and it was more open to working with any editor vs that of a specific company’s solution.”
The equipment provides fiber connectivity from the head-in control room at Stewart Hall to three separate venues on campus, including the college’s renovated hockey center.
Silvestri says the new broadcast studio and technology allows the University Television Station students to provide HD content to the hockey center 50 new monitors.
“A person sitting in a big suite paying big money expects to see HD video,” he says. “Being able to provide HD content to those monitors is an added benefit…We’re adding tremendously to the university.”
Challenges Along the Way
Coordinating the flows
Darren Whitten, Account Executive at Alpha Video, says one of the biggest challenges his team faced while integrating the systems was coordinating each workflow.
“The biggest challenge was the fact that there were many different kinds of facets and workflows that all had to be tied together,” he says. “The news, sports. They also have a student lab for editing a remote field gear. A lot of different pieces had to come together to make this whole system work.”
Coordinating with administration
Silvestri says his biggest struggle was getting administration on the same page as him and the Mass Communications department.
“The biggest challenge was telling our story to the administration, what we needed and why we needed it,” he says. “It’s hard to explain high intelligent broadcasting to people that don’t know the lingo or know how many hours are put into a single 30 second edit piece. They had to know exactly what we did and where we wanted to go to.”
Watching the Clock
Whitten says that a big obstacle Alpha Video commonly faces during projects of this size is time.
“Once these schools typically get the greenlight to start moving forward, it’s a fast-track type of approach to get these projects completed,” he says. “There’s not always the amount of time you would like to have on the front end to get things planned properly before implementing. It’s compact, the time you get to have the stuff installed and up and running…for the beginning of the school year.”
One of the production control rooms at the SCSU broadcast studio.
Tips to Building Your Own Broadcast Studio
Keep your wallet full
Barnes says colleges should always look for ways to save, especially when looking at technology with hefty price tags.
“We serve smaller budgets with our three pronged product [which is used by SCSU],” he says. “Colleges and universities should be looking for ways of saving themselves money. They should have lots of checklists, what is the long term cost of ownership, integration costs, closing costs, etc.”
Map it out
Whitten says one of the best ways to execute a project of this size is to plan, plan, plan.
“I think it was more about thinking about the core infrastructure and having a good plan at the very beginning on how all these pieces are going to tie together,” he says.
Silvestri says that colleges looking to construct a similar broadcast studio should mimic the other technologies that are out there. That way, they can capture the essence of the studio at reduced costs.
“Even if a college can’t put 4.8 million dollars into a facility, it’s all about the workflows and how it’s really done,” he says. “I can come up with the same work flow we used for very cheap…and mimic the way the news is done. It may not be the same stuff the industry is using, but the theory behind it is done basically the same.”