Contributors: Janet K. Kerby, Rob Munzig, Phil Harris

Story-telling skills and many production skills can be taught with a bare minimum of equipment. With today’s technology becoming more available at the consumer and prosumer level, it is possible to offer students new digital technology without huge investments.



In order to interest and encourage this generation of students in a field which is highly technical, a school system must make every effort to make modern technology available. However, the terms “modern technology” and “school budgets” rarely can be used in the same sentence.

Technology changes so rapidly that this document would be instantly obsolete if it listed specific brands and model numbers of equipment recommendations when it comes to the equipment outfitting needs for your studio. Some generic suggestions of equipment you might consider are offered below. There will be some explanation of options available on the equipment. As much as possible, the equipment will generally be presented in the order it might be purchased as funds become available.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a SINGLE RIGHT WAY to build your equipment inventory. You must stay within your prescribed budget – that is a given. Your approach should be to pay homage to two separate philosophies:

(1) Get as many pieces of gear as you can afford in order to occupy as many students as possible at the same time

(2) Try to get the best quality gear possible while remembering #1 above.

In other words: Get the most bang(s) you can for every buck you have to spend.

In this final installment, we continue from the July and August issues with suggested configurations for Level Two  and Level Three purchases.  

Level 2

Suggested Product:

· 12-15 minute taped newscast in style of “nightly news” with readers, VO-SOT’s, packages, sports, etc. Audience: student body via closed circuit and/or cable or webcast/longer podcasts This could be live-to-tape (non-stop studio newscast) or all done in post-production (anchors taped separately and edited in.)

· Production of DVD’s for customers in student based enterprise

· Cablecast of the program throughout the community

· Location gear:

· Increase number and quality of cameras available

· Wireless mics both handheld and lapel style

· Boundary mics to mic an entire room or stage

· Fluid Tripods heavier duty than above for all cameras

Notes on Tripods:

A camera tripod can make the difference between professional-looking video and video that screams "amateur at work." Tripods are essential in studio production. They are often mounted on a dolly for easier movement throughout the studio. Do not opt for the cheaper, plastic models. They will not hold up and will not give you the fluid pan and tilt that you will need.

Although a tripod may be a hassle to carry and set up in the field, the results are well worth the effort. The better tripods come with ball-leveling mechanisms that make level shots in the field a snap.

The smaller a camcorder is, the more likely the student will prefer to hand-hold the camera. Hand-holding a camera should always be the option of last resort – not the option of first choice because the student is too lazy to carry a tripod.

Light kits for each camera

Notes for Light Kits:

The newer fluorescent light kits available from various manufacturers are much more economical than the older quartz-type light kits. The individual lamps are phenomenally less expensive than quartz lamps and there is no heat issue at all with the fluorescent kits. Quartz lamps get extremely hot while in use and can provide a serious burn to skin or ignite flammable items which are too close.

WARNING: a professional TV fluorescent lighting instrument is not the same thing as a fluorescent instrument and lamp available at your local hardware store. Use onlyTV lamps!!! The lamps available in hardware stores provide a very green or blue tint – both of which will severely inhibit the quality of your TV image.

Field monitors for each camera

Studio gear

Again, upgrade cameras as much as possible

Wireless communication via headsets (actual professional systems not the inexpensive electronics store system) between the control room and the camera operators and the floor director

Character Generator for superimposing titles and graphics

Preview monitor added to monitors above

Teleprompter

Replace A/V mixer above with:

Audio Mixer

Notes on Audio Mixers:

Audio boards and consoles are designed to:

1. amplify or reduce incoming signals

2. allow for switching and volume level adjustments for a variety of audio sources

3. allow for creatively mixing and balancing multiple audio signals to achieve an optimum blend of sound

4. route the combined effect to a transmission or recording device

5. Sophisticated audio boards or consoles also allow you to manipulate specific characteristics of audio. These include the left-to-right "placement" of stereo sources, altering frequency characteristics of sounds, and adding reverberation.

Connectors:

Audio equipment most commonly employs three types of audio connectors for microphones, mini, ¼” phone, and XLR connectors. You are familiar with the mini as the connector on your headphones for your iPod and the ¼” connector is the connector you had on your stereo system at home 10 years ago for headphones. It looks like a large version of the mini connector. You already know the greatest disadvantage of both of these connectors – with the slightest tug, the wire disconnects. The XLR connector uses a locking mechanism and it is impossible to disconnect accidentally without depressing the release button. The XLR is the type of connector used in professional video. If at all possible, do not purchase equipment without XLR connectors. If you can not avoid it, then you will need adapters to convert from mini or ¼” to XLR. Once again, consult your vendor for help.

Video switcher/mixer

Add a music library with re-recording rights OR let students create their own with software such as Apple Garage Band.

A lighting grid with studio lights

A light board

Dollys for Studio Tripods

Luxury item

Rear controls for studio cameras

Add a third camera

Post Production:

Increase the number of post-production editing stations and perhaps the complexity of the editing software. One editor for every 2 or 3 students in a class is a good goal to work toward. Major software systems like AVID Media Composer and Final Cut

Pro are constantly becoming more affordable

At this point, adding more units is still better than upgrading to ultra-expensive units. The more hands-on time the student has, the more productive and the more experienced he becomes.

A system to duplicate your work (event videography) for sale:

This might be a small DVD duplication system.

Several are on the market. It is not recommended that you duplicate videos on the DVD burner built into your NLE editor. You do not want to wear out that burner! Talk to your systems designer about his/her recommendations. It may be that a small 4 at-a-time burner is perfect for you or you may elect to go with the robotic ones which can do 200 overnight.

Level 3

Suggested Product:

· News magazine, talk shows, extended ENG work on location or EFP of longer works. This might include video yearbook and school-based enterprise which would include event videography for clients.

· Live telecasts. Increase the quantity and quality of everything above.

· Install the equipment and cabling necessary to send out a feed from control room cable to permit LIVE telecast from studio in to the school’s closed circuit system and/or addition to airing taped newscasts.

What is described below is a no-holds barred studio facility. Consider it a goal to work towards – remember that old adage about your reach exceeding your grasp?

Broadcast Television Studio

A state-of-the-art facility will include a studio complete with at least three cameras/tripods/dollys, green or blue screen for chromakey effects, cycloramas and curtains, teleprompters, wall jacks for mic cables which connect to the audio mixer in the control room, a studio monitor, make-up area, equipment storage area as well as facilities for set construction and set piece storage, audio narration booth. A lighting grid with ample lighting instruments as well as the control dimming board necessary to operate the system will be present.

Control Room

The control room is configured with a production switcher, intercoms, 16+ multi-channel audio mixer, video special effects generator, character generator, mics and audio interfaces, intercoms, and electronic graphics for both live and taped programs. It will also have available a music library, and a duplication system. Additionally, the control room will have waveform and vector scope gear, test signal generator, and many camera, preview, program, and confidence monitors.

Non-Linear, Post-Production Suites

Non-linear editing suites complete with audio creation software and digital media mastering capabilities. There should be at least one editing suite for every 2 students. All editors may be networked to a server so that all video/audio material is accessible from any station.

ENG Kit

Electronic News Gathering setup for field production:

ENG production and post-production of news programs is usually done with camcorders and other portable equipment. This will include Cam, Mic (boom, handheld, wireless), XLR adapters, light kit, tripod, field monitor, batteries and charger. The goal is one ENG kit for every 4 students.

Remote Location Recording

Multi-camera setup gear that can be used for both live and taped events coverage:

The multi-camera setup would also require audio mixer and video SEG as well as a master recorder connected to the output of the SEG and audio mixer.

Program Distribution System

This system will allow for school-wide in house broadcast. It may also provide for capability to uplink to a cable system viewable by the general public. Finally, it may provide for the ability to podcast programming produced by the facility. Again, your trusty systems designer can help you navigate this technically complex minefield and achieve amazing results at economical costs.

Production Truck

A production truck allows you to have a studio on wheels and is used to produce events off site with a full studio setup. Examples would be athletic events, plays, and other special events.

WARNING: before pursuing this particular option be certain to determine the liabilities involved for the school system and you if students are riding in or (horrors) driving this truck!!! Don’t be surprised if you are told that students can not be in the truck at all unless it is stationary. They must be transported separately to the locations.

Consider the following tips for making your life easier:

1. Insulated lunch boxes make outstanding padded cases.

2. Igloo coolers are more rugged and offer topnotch protection for a variety of items.

3. Take $100.00 and a go to Radio Shack to buy every connector you recognize and some you don’t.

4. Use $6.00 to buy a fishing tackle box to store all those connectors.

5. Spend $10.00 for a sunshade (the kind with the foil-like surface on one side) for your car windshield. When they’re not in your car, they make a great reflector to bounce light from or to take away the ghastly shadows that are present outside in direct sunlight.

6. Can’t afford portable monitors for your cameras? A number of companies make LCD monitors that can attach to your camera’s shoe.

7. Never go on a remote shoot without a copy of the page from the yellow pages for Radio Shacks in your area and at least $20 in your pocket. Murphy’s Law dictates that he will visit your shoot sometime – be prepared!

8. Do not buy headphones for your portable cameras. Your kids already have them for their portable electronic devices. If you buy headsets, they will sprout legs and disappear!

9. Invest in hard shell cases for cameras once you move up from the inexpensive camcorders. It is money well-spent.


Phillip L. Harris taught Television Production for 34 years in Fairfax County, Virginia, before retiring in June ‘06.  As a consultant, he helps to design curricula and build production facilities throughout the country.  His students produced Focal Point, a 30 minute weekly magazine as well as operated Digital Wave Productions, a school-based TV production enterprise earning approx. $50K yearly to purchase new equipment.  The motto of his class:  “Doing the real thing, With the real thing, Training to be the real thing” is Phil’s teaching philosophy.  In February, 2006, his high school textbook Television Production (http://g-w.com/products/detail.asp?id=253)  was published by Goodheart-Willcox, Co., Inc.  (Available in the SVN OnLine Store) Also, that year, his program received an “Exemplary” rating by the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education at The Ohio State University.  Phil is passionate about sharing his successful curriculum and facility design tips with fellow TV broadcasting instructors and, to that end, is a session presenter and contest judge at many conferences (SIPA, JEA, STN, ITEA, and ACTE to name a few).  He can be reached at 703-975-7038 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..