In an effort to provide the patients of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with alternatives to mainstream commercial broadcasting, each week Star Studio—the medical facilities’ closed circuit television channel—produces five original series totaling six-hours of live programming.
Star Studio broadcasts age appropriate programming 24-hours-per day over Channel
13 on the hospital’s closed circuit system, according to Ben Diger, Star Studio’s technical specialist. The programs are designed to entertain the patients while enabling them to focus on being kids, he added.
In order to meet the production schedule, Diger and four other Star Studio staff wear a number of different hats and rely on a simplified and seamless workflow built around Blackmagic Design’s Micro Videohub, DeckLink HD Extreme 3D capture and playback technology and a variety of Blackmagic Design Mini Converters. Those products help the Star Studio team deliver new programming to viewers each week, according to Diger.
Channel 13 Original Series
“Kids Clubhouse,” an hour-long variety show broadcast every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and hosted by “The Dude,” encourages patients to call in from their hospital rooms to win prizes. Star Studio’s four other original productions are each broadcast once a week. Those programs are:
- “Rockin’ with Rotty,” which features local celebrity Kevin Rotty from a nearby dueling piano bar, playing kids’ requests as they call them in.
- “What is it?” challenges viewers to correctly identify pixilated images
- “Bilingual Bingo” or “Star Studio Bingo” are, as the names suggest, bingo games, but which often feature mascots and other local personalities
Each show is interactive by design, enabling and encouraging patients at Children’s to get involved and participate in real time. All programming is also broadcast live to the St. Paul Children’s Hospital and is available on Star Studio’s website so children can tune in and share episodes with their friends and families.
“Few hospitals offer this sort of programming, and none of them encourage viewer involvement the way that we do,” Diger said. “The kids love calling in live and hearing themselves and even occasionally show up on set. Then they visit the website and share their 15 minutes of fame with anyone who may have missed it.”
‘The Wishing Well’
Providing patients and their families with child-friendly entertainment at Children’s Hospital began in 1978, when security guard Larry Johnson used his video equipment to produce and broadcast the show “The Wishing Well,” which provided much of the inspiration for “Kids Clubhouse.” The Wishing Well eventually ended its run, but as technology become more innovative and affordable, Star Studio was able to again provide the hospital with children’s programming.
Launched in January 2008, Star Studio’s first broadcast was conducted in a hospital playroom. During 2010, Star Studio moved into a waiting room in another facility as the hospital was renovated. Eight-months later, when the studio returned to the hospital it moved into a new broadcast facility. Yet, regardless of location and evolving equipment, Star Studio never missed a single week of live broadcasting throughout that transient period.
In addition, Diger hopes to expand broadcasting to other pediatric hospitals in Minnesota and beyond. Nonetheless, Star Studio has a long way to go before it can offer the level of programming it now produces to other children’s hospitals across the nation. At present, the studio stays on top of its broadcast schedule using a Blackmagic Design Micro Videohub router at the core of its operation. The Micro Videohub’s compact design saves an ample amount of much needed space, and its 16 inputs and 16 outputs accommodate all of the equipment.
In addition, three high-definition cameras are plugged into the Micro Videohub, and the signals are routed out to a Mac Pro that runs Channel 13 with a Blackmagic Design DeckLink HD Extreme 3D capture and playback card to capture the live video feed. Another Mac Pro, running Final Cut Pro, is plugged into the Micro Videohub and is used to create and feed graphics, sound effects and previously recorded material.
Four types of Blackmagic Design Mini Converters are used to switch signals and complete both the Minneapolis and St. Paul broadcasts, respectively in HD and SDI. With Mini Converter HDMI to SDI, SDI to Analog, Analog to SDI and UpDownCross, Star Studio is able to connect the video systems at each hospital, ensuring all patients are able to enjoy the action as it unfolds live.
While that workflow is incredibly impressive for a small, nonprofit team, Diger wants to build a mobile solution that will enable Star Studio to conduct remote broadcasts. “We don’t want our audience to feel like we have limits and would love to eventually bring the outside world in and give everyone a chance to interact the way our Minneapolis and St. Paul viewers are able to,” he said.
Click here to access Star Studio’s website.