The main production control room features Grass Valley switcher, Telex/RTS intercom, Chyron graphics, Evertz multiviewers and other components housed in a Forecast console.
Founded in 1869, St. Cloud State University is the second largest public university in Minnesota. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, the campus offers more than 200 academic programs, with nearly 16,500 students, including more than 1,000 international students.
The Department of Mass Communications has more than 500 students, with advertising, news-editorial, public relations, broadcast and graduate sequences. The broadcasting sequence includes television production, television journalism and radio. Accredited by ACEJMC (Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication), St. Cloud State’s undergraduate mass communications program is one of only two in Minnesota. St. Cloud State graduates can be found in television production and journalism positions at almost every television station within Minnesota, and in the Midwest region.
Since 1978, the campus has had its own television station, UTVS (University Television Station), which provides programming and offers students the experience of producing live television content. UTVS cablecasts on Charter Communications Channel 188 in standard-definition to more than 33,000 households in the Saint Cloud and surrounding community, and in high definition on campus Channel 21.
UTVS is a student-run organization with more than 100 students and a faculty advisor. Today, UTVS provides live coverage of news, sports and entertainment, with two daily live newscasts each weekday, and numerous sports and entertainment programming—all student produced.
Beginning in 1992, St. Cloud State University has been providing live televised coverage of SCSU Division I Men’s Hockey through Husky Productions, an award-winning student production team. These broadcasts are student-produced, with students fulfilling positions, under the supervision of a faculty advisor, and a professional color-commentator and play-by-play announcer. Husky Productions broadcasts on various cable outlets, including Charter Communications and Comcast, with select games on ESPN, Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Plus.
Over the last 37 years, the television studios at St. Cloud State University have undergone numerous upgrades, moving from a small basement to a state-of-the-art facility in 1988, with a massive facility re-build in the summer of 2013. The television production facility offers large (1,700 square-foot) and small (1,300 square-foot) soundstages, two production control rooms, two voice-over booths, a central equipment room, a media control room, a master control room, 12 editing suites, two training computer labs, a newsroom and an engineering department. The television studios are used by Mass Communications production and journalism courses and UTVS Television.
In the fall of 2012, the university’s president approved $4.8 million for a television studio upgrade, tapping into special reserved funds. After a year of developmental meetings, the need for a high-definition facility emerged.
This was either an all-in or all-out decision—we either do it or we don’t. Based on how the facility was built in the 1980s, we wanted to continue the tradition, and build it the same way they did, with the best professional equipment available.
The new installation was needed primarily because all of our 30+ year old equipment was failing. With the $14.7-million renovation of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in 2012, the need for true HD signals emerged, as the HBNHC now had more than 50+ full HD televisions, all needing the best picture possible. We felt our Mass Communications students were falling behind the technology curve, and it was time for an upgrade.
Ethan Allen keeps an eye on signals in the Master Control Room.
The process of design and integration follows a very specific protocol. Initially, we hired Alpha Video, a state contractor, to help design and develop the bid document. The project went out to bid, and Alpha Video was awarded the contract.
The design and integration process began in March 2013, with Alpha Video developing the drawings and choosing the equipment. The university’s technical staff reviewed these proposals, along with student engineers Alex Dorosz and Wesley Beskar. Revisions and requests were made as necessary and the build phase started.
The time frame for installation was very quick and installation was smooth. From the university’s perspective, Alpha had a great team of integrators on site throughout the summer and into the fall. The crew started on site in June and the upgrade was complete in October in time for the first hockey game.
With a project of this magnitude, the university was concerned about the short time frame, but the years leading up to the upgrade paid off. However, we knew where we wanted to go with the facility, and what the workflows would be.
A building contract was brought in to remodel the various control rooms, enlarge the central equipment room to accommodate the 20 Middle Atlantic equipment racks and build the master control room. Two Liebert air-handlers were installed, along with APC backup power systems and a clean-agent fire suppression system.
Each control room is outfitted with custom furniture from Forecast Consoles. Forecast was able to outfit each room with exactly what we needed, with function for future expansion. The ergonomics behind the company’s design allows for flexibility and customization.
Keeping with the industry standard Telex intercom system, we are able to provide the exact same panels that our students would see working in the production truck and studio world. It was important to us that our students get to use the same intercom panel they would see at the Super Bowl.
For facility equipment, Evertz was chosen to provide a large audio/video router, Magnum router interface, 16 multi-viewers, fiber converters, distribution amplifiers, and master clock and synchronization generators. We were pleased with how Evertz was able to integrate with all the other hardware we had.
More than eight Grass Valley LDX series cameras were purchased, with 18x Fujinon ENG lenses and two box lenses (55x and 77x). Three Vinten pedestals provide studio camera support.
Production Control Room 2 at St. Cloud University
We were one of the first to install and operate the new Autoscript E.P.I.C. prompting system. The functionality and style are impressive. We have hand controls, wireless controls and foot pedals throughout our facility for prompting, all integrated with AP’s ENPS.
Grass Valley really out did themselves with the Grass Valley lineup. The company’s fiber-to-triax solution allows seamless integration into our 20-year-old triax infrastructure. The cameras are reliable work horses that will last for many years to come.
The switcher of choice was a Grass Valley Karrera, which operates in dual-suite mode. A two M/E panel was purchased for news productions, while a three M/E panel was purchased for sports productions. A soft panel was purchased for smaller productions and remote control. A Summit 3G Production Client serves as a four-channel clipstore, with integrated fill-and-key channels. The dual suite mode, along with assignable resources allows flexibility in productions.
Wheatstone was chosen for audio mixing. D32 and D8 control surfaces provide flexibility for our daily production needs. Wheatstone stepped up to the plate and delivered a superb custom solution for all our remote venues and production spaces. The company’s Wheatnet IP-based audio network gives us instant access to audio sources throughout our facility.
For ease of use and flexibility, two K2 Dyno replay controllers were purchased, along with two Grass Valley Summit 3G production clients and a Stratus media server. A Summit 3G transmission client serves the needs of news production. We are looking forward to future integration between the Stratus and our ENPS newsroom system using Rundown.
For graphics, two Chyron Mosiacs serve news and sports productions, along with a Camio server and ISQ viewer for integration with the ENPS newsroom system.
MORE INFO Adobe: www.adobe.com
Forecast Consoles: www.forecast-consoles.com
Grass Valley: www.grassvalley.com
Middle Atlantic: www.middleatlantic.com
Tightrope Media: www.trms.com
Twelve edit suites are iMac based, with Adobe Master Collection, Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut X, as well as Avid Media Composer. Each editor uses the EditShare servers, with an EditShare LTO tape backup for long-term archive.
Tightrope Media Systems provides on-air channel control for UTVS Television and The St. Cloud State Sports network. We’ve worked with Tightrope for more than a decade and the company continues to impress us with its support and dedication to its products.”
One integration we were able to accomplish after the upgrade was the construction and installation of a three-camera robotic virtual set system in our second studio, complete with a fifty-foot chroma-key ProCyc and state-of-the-art Kino Flo florescent lights.
Though the process went smoothly, I wish there had been more time to develop additional workflows for the equipment available at the time. There are still future integrations we would like to pursue, including news automation and super-slow-mo cams.
One unique aspect of this build-out is the interconnection between remote venues. During an average weekend, we have two control rooms, one producing news, and the other producing live sporting events, all integrated in a single facility, with bi-directional communication and control between three venues on campus more than a mile away.
In our experience, it’s unique at the collegiate level to see multiple live simultaneous broadcasts from one facility reaching millions of households on various markets, including Charter Communications, Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV.
Now that we built the facility, we can grow into it and train future television production and broadcasting professionals.
Derrick Silvestri is the TV studio manager and an adjunct professor at St. Cloud University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.