Medaille College Jumps From Analog Straight to HD

By Carolyn Braff
As the February 2009 digital transition creeps closer, broadcasters at all levels — from stations to in-house college networks — must decide how to cost-effectively upgrade their analog operations. At Medaille College in Buffalo, NY, rather than change over the existing facility from analog to digital, the communications department decided to take one more step and upgrade to high-definition. Replacing an analog system that department Chair Lisa Van Valkinburgh calls “sub-standard for any school,” Medaille now boasts a state-of-the-art HD facility on which the students can truly learn.
“Our equipment was very, very bad,” explains Van Valkinburgh, clinical associate professor at Medaille College. “We were still going in VHS, and we had no digital capability at all except for one editing system. Since, in February, we all have to be digital, we looked at how to do it and how to go straight to HD.”
The HD Group, based in Williamsville, NY, served as the project integrator, taking Van Valkinburgh’s suggestions from her personal work experience at the Fox affiliate in Buffalo, along with her vision of what she wanted the studio to do.
“When I was working in the TV station, I was in master control,” Van Valkinburgh says. “I did some production, but everything has changed since then. Since I’ve been working with such outdated equipment for so long, the learning curve is huge for me right now. I’m learning with the students as we go, getting the manual out.”
The new facility, named Palisano TV Studio in recognition of a grant from the Palisano Foundation, is equipped with a FOR-A HVS 500HS switcher and FOR-A MV-1610HS 16-channel multiviewer, three Canon XLH1S cameras, and Mirror-Image LC-150MP Teleprompters.
“The Canon cameras I have are the HD version of the mini DV digital cameras that we have for the field,” Van Valkinburgh says. “We decided to go with the HD version of the same cameras, so I know the cameras already.”
A new lighting grid was also installed, along with an LG 37-inch LCD and two 22-inch LCDs mounted into a monitor wall custom-designed by Winsted. The facility is also equipped with a green screen.
Students in the MCTV club are now able to produce a weekly newscast, a sports talk show called
Over the Top, and several other studio-based shows, distributing their content on the campus cable network.
“We’re able to do a lot more reporting than was ever done before,” Van Valkinburgh says.
The sports show will now be able to integrate coaches’ video from Medaille teams, enabling the production crew to run encore presentations of the games and bring in student athletes to help break down the plays on air.
“We’ve already taken the cameras down to our gymnasium and filmed some shots of the basketball court and some of our banners,” explains Dominic Klos, a senior at Medaille and head of the MCTV club. “We’re going to be able to use that as our background using the green screen.”
The communications department is in talks with the athletic department to arrange for the students to produce some live game broadcasts of various sporting events, but a decision on that has yet to be made.
“We are talking about some play-by-play production of our sporting events,” Van Valkinburgh says, “but we are still learning the equipment and training, so we may be a ways away from that.”
Streaming those productions is also a possibility, as soon as Van Valkinburgh and her students have a handle on the new setup.
“If you ever saw pictures of what it looked like and what it is now, it’s night and day,” Van Valkinburgh explains. “We’ve come so far, from so bad to so good, and it’s very exciting. We’ll be teaching TV production in the spring, so, after next semester, we’ll have a nice cohort of students that will know everything that needs to be known down there.”

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